From Russian Arctic pioneer to sanctioned transporter of stolen grain

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - July 4, 2024
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The “Nordic Barents” became the first bulk carrier to transit the Northern Sea Route, sailing non-stop from Kirkenes in Norway to Lianyungang in China. Photo: Tschudi Shipping

The bulk-carrier sailing the historic Europe to Asia transit via the Northern Sea Route in 2010 is now the first to arrive in Venezuela with stolen Ukrainian grain from occupied Sevastopol.’

The 2010 historic voyage started in Kirkenes on the Norwegian Barents Sea coast and ended in Lianyngang north of Shanghai in China.

At the time, the name of the bulk-carrier was Nordic Barents and the ship belonged to Nordic Bulk Carriers. Loaded with iron-ore, the pioneering voyage sparked hope for increased transit shipping via the Arctic, a route which is 40% shorter compared with sailing the Suez channel.

“The fuel savings alone add up to approximately $180,000,” managing director of Nordic Bulk, Christian Bonfils, told the Barents Observer at the time.

Tschudi Shipping Company was at the time one of the larger shareholders in Northern Iron, the owner of Sydvaranger iron-ore mine in Kirkenes. Felix Tschudi was key to arrange the transit in cooperation with Russian stakeholders, including Rosatomflot’s icebreaker fleet.

“The Northern Sea Route can be of great importance for the companies in northern Scandinavia and on the Kola Peninsula which ship oil, gas, minerals and other raw materials to the increasingly important Asian markets,” Felix H. Tschudi said to the Barents Observer ahead of the 2010-voyage.

 

Felix Tschudi at the port in Kirkenes from where the Nordic Barents started its historic Arctic transit voyage. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

The Northern Sea Route never became the highway of Arctic seas that many predicted. Russia’s all-out war against Ukraine put an end to most European cooperation with Moscow in regards to Arctic shipping.

Meanwhile, Nordic Barents has changed name to Enisey and the new owner is Nord Project LCC Transport Company. The new owner, based in Arkhangelsk, is subject to international sanctions.

It was Lloyd’s List that first reported about Enisey heading towards Venezuela with grain loaded in the port of Sevastopol on Russia-occupied Crimea. Along with Cuba, Venezuela is Moscow’s most important ally in Central America.

The bulk-carrier came to Sevastopol from Arkhangelsk in April, according to the Ukrainian news site Myrotvorets News.

The Enisey allegedly carried 27,000 tonnes of grain on the voyage from Crimea to Puerto Cabello in Venezuela.

According to Lloyd’s List, Sevastopol has also previously been used to export Ukraine-origin cargo. Both the European Union and the US have condemned Russia’s theft and export of grain of Ukrainian origin.

Also another bulk-carrier from northern Russia has been involved in shipping of stolen grain from Ukraine.

The Grumant still has Murmansk as registered home port, although its ownership is not clear. Following the bankruptcy of Murmansk Shipping Company, Grumant was up for auction in 2021, but the sale was the following year cancelled by the Arbitration Court of the Murmansk Region.  It still sail under Russian flag.

In February this year, Grumant sailed out with 20,000 tons of allegedly stolen Ukrainin grain from the port of Sevastopol, news portal Novyny Live.