A second voyage to ship fish via Russia’s Arctic sea route has been cancelled

The world's only civilian nuclear cargo ship was to have sailed twice between Russia's Far East and St. Petersburg.

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - October 30, 2019
The Sevmorput at port in Murmansk. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

Sailing fish from the Russian Far East via the Northern Sea Route to St. Petersburg on board the nuclear-powered container vessel Sevmorput has turned out to be less profitable than expected.

Two voyages were planned for this autumn. Sailing from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, via the port of Nakhodka and all along the north coast of Siberia and around Scandinavia with seafood to St. Petersburg.

The first voyage took place in September with a second planned for late October or early November.

On Wednesday, however, Sevmorput is at port in Murmansk, according to MarineTraffic. Here, the world’s only civilian nuclear-powered cargo ship has been at quay since Sept. 26.

Asked about the cancellation of the second voyage, Rosatomflot writes in an email to the Barents Observer that the cancellation came on the freighter’s initiative.

“According to their information, this was due to a decline in export demand from ports in Eastern Europe in July-August 2019 and the resulting substantial freight rate reduction from St. Petersburg to ports in Asia.”

Freight rate is down 20 percent for this routes, said Rosatomflot with reference to the freighters.

The business model for sailing Sevmorput was based on bringing return-cargo on the eastbound voyage.

The September Northern Sea Route voyage took less than 20 days from Kamchatka to St. Petersburg and Rosatomflot says it might come more next year.

“Based on the test voyage results, fishing businesses in the Far East reiterated their interest and cost efficiency of fish transports along the Northern Sea Route.”

Rosatomflot hopes for arranging regular cargo voyages with Sevmorput from the Far East to European Russia via the Arctic during later summer and fall navigation seasons.

The September voyage was first time a civilian nuclear-powered ship sailed with cargo along the coast of Scandinavia to St. Petersburg.

Sevmorput is 30 years old and is powered by one reactor of the KLT-40 type, similar to the the reactor onboard the icebreakers Taymyr and Vaygach.

After a 2015 upgrade and safety evaluation, the reactor’s service life was prolonged with 150,000 hours aimed at keeping Sevmorput in operation until 2024.