First Panamax Container Ship To Navigate Russia’s Arctic Route


Russia’s main Arctic shipping route is slated to see its first Panamax container vessel this year. The 4,890-TEU box ship, Flying Fish 1, received a permit to transit the country’s Northern Sea Route this summer.

Historic Voyage And Arctic Route

Flying Fish 1 will be the first Panamax container vessel to travel across the Arctic, nearly doubling the previous highpoint set by the 3,600-TEU Venta Maersk in 2018. The 66,781-dwt vessel provides service as part of Safetrans Line’s Trans-Russia liner loop between St. Petersburg and destinations in China. The vessel looks set to become part of the nascent China-Russia box trade via the Arctic.

The Arctic route allows vessels to avoid the ongoing conflict areas in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden without detouring via Cape Horn.During summer 2023, Chinese company NewNew Shipping, sent four feedermax ships through the Arctic completing seven voyages between July and December. The shipper expects to expand its offering to a dozen voyages this summer.

Vessel Specifications & Recent Incidents

One of NewNew Shipping’s vessels, NewNew Polar Bear, was involved in damage to the Balticconnector gas pipeline and two subsea telecoms cables between Estonia and Finland.

Safetrans Line acquired the 24-year old Flying Fish 1 in October 2023. Its Ice-1 ice class allows it to navigate all sectors of the Northern Sea Route independently without icebreaker escort in ice-free and light ice conditions between July and October. The permit details suggest a planned round trip voyage between early August and October.

Increasing Arctic Traffic

While thick sea ice continues to dominate the route during winter and spring, even non-ice class now routinely transit the route during the summer months. Last summer saw the first-ever Capesize bulker, the 169,159-dwt Gingo, as well as multiple Suezmax oil tankers venture into the Arctic.

Across fourteen voyages Russia sent 1.5 million barrels of crude to China, including multiple trips by non-ice class tankers.

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Source: GCaptain