A first Arc4 LNG carrier of the summer 2023 season is moving eastbound through the Arctic waters of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) with a cargo bound for Asia.

Eikland Energy’s iGIS LNG said the 161,881-cbm Clean Ocean (built 2014) looks to be heading east. It appears to be following a channel cut by the 172,600-cbm Arc7 LNG carrier Yakkov Gakkel (built 2019).

The vessel loaded at the Yamal LNG plant on 7 August but data tracking shows it waiting in a holding position for several days late last week.

The use of a lower ice-class vessel to ship a cargo eastbound through waters that are usually more heavily ice-bound is an indication that the summer sailing season for ships is now fully underway through the NSR.

Russian energy company Novatek normally uses its ice-breaking Arc7 LNG carrier fleet to ship cargoes during the winter period when ice conditions allow. This is usually up until the end of January and then again from May onwards.

In 2022, the Clean Ocean, which is owned by Greek owner Dynagas but is on long-term charter to Novatek-led Yamal Trade, arrived in ballast at the Arctic-based export terminal from the east along with two of its sister ships during August.

The vessels were led through the NSR by an Arc7 LNG carrier, which appeared to be cutting a channel ahead of them.

The shipment on the Clean Ocean heads out as Russia puts another piece of the jigsaw that is its second LNG plant into place.

Eikland Energy founder Kjell Eikland said his company’s iGIS/LNG system detected mooring of the first gravity-based structure — GBS-1 — at the Arctic LNG 2 site on the Gydan Peninsula on Monday.

Showing satellite imagery of the unit, he said the required infrastructure and feed gas installations were also in place.

Novatek has indicated a start-up date for the first 6.6-million-tonne-per-annum train of this three-train project towards the end of this year or early in 2024.

Russia has also put two super-size LNG floating storage units into place in 2023 at the eastern and western ends of the NSR.

The 361,600-cbm newbuilding Koryak FSU arrived in Bechevinskaya Bay on the eastern side of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, while its sister ship — the Saam FSU — arrived at the western side of the NSR in Ura Bay off Murmansk in June.

Novatek wants to use its specialised Arc7 fleet to shuttle cargoes into the FSUs from its Arctic production so that other non or lesser ice-classed vessels can take on shipments for the storage giants.