Two Neste Shipping tankers have made it through the icy North-East passage to Asia.


The Finnish owner said the first vessel to try the shorter arctic route from Murmansk in Russia was the 75,000-dwt Stena Poseidon (built 2006), which discharged in South Korea in August.



It was followed by the 75,000-dwtPalva (built 2007), which headed to China in September.


Neste said: “The very challenging ice conditions along the route, which follows Russia's northern arctic coastline, limit its use, and the route continues to be open to traffic for only a couple of months in the summer.”


Neste’s shipping and terminals vice president Niko Ristikankare added that one of its tankers was the first commercial vessel to use the route in 1997.


Russian authorities require that all ships operating along the route are ice-classified and fitted with additional equipment, such as radios approved for use in arctic areas and a spare propeller blade.


The 6,250 nautical miles take around 20 days at 13 knots, half that of the Suez Canal route.


"Our journey from Murmansk to the Bering Strait took nine days, escorted by a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker and a local ice pilot," said Jari Leino, captain of Stena Poseidon.


"We spotted ice along the route but were able to avoid the larger floes thanks to the open water conditions that prevailed this summer. All in all, it was a unique experience."


By Gary Dixon in London, Tradewinds