August 30th, 2010
02:11 AM GMT
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An historic journey is happening now...and no surprise, it's to feed China's appetite for energy.

The SCF Baltica is a large tanker that has just made it safely through the Arctic Circle to deliver 70,000 tons of  gas condensate (a natural gas extract) from Russia to China. This is the first time a tanker of this size has been able to make the journey through the Northern Sea Route. It's now headed for its final port destination just south of Shanghai.

There are two  interesting angles to this story:

1) This route through the Arctic cuts down the distance traveled by almost a half. The route from Murmansk, Russia to Ningbo, China covers 7,000 nautical miles. This is down from the 12,000 nautical miles it takes on the traditional route through the Suez Canal.

Sergey Frank, CEO of SCF Group, is taking the journey on board his tanker. I spoke with him via satellite phone and asked him how much money the shortcut is saving his company. He says, "That depends on the freight market but today, the freight market in the tanker business is not great. But anyway, the one day capital cost is $20,000 to $25,000. Any day of savings from these logistics is definitely improving the economics of the business."

2) Global warming. You only have to connect the dots: A  huge oil and gas tanker can make it through ice fields in the Arctic today because of the effects of global warming. And even then, the SCF Baltica  tanker is being escorted by two nuclear-powered ice breakers.   Sam Chambers, journalist and author of "Oil on Water," tells CNN, " It is unquestionable that this route has only become possible thanks to global warming, as sailors have been trying to - and failing - to find an Arctic route for centuries. Just a couple of weeks back Canadian authorities found an old sunken British ship in the far north that had met its end attempting the elusive Arctic passage."

Whether we like it or not, the Arctic is the new frontier for oil and gas transport. According to SCF Group, the information collected on this historic voyage will be entered into a database to plan future Arctic crossings with larger ice-class tankers.

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soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Tanguicho

    Do you find it really useful to pollute every single sea or ocean on the face of the earth just to save money? Has it come to the extent that every single thing in our life is ruled by money? Have you asked the opinion of all the people inhabiting the earth if they want oil and gas tankers to follow the Arctic route?

    August 30, 2010 at 6:50 am |
  2. Mario

    Just wait for the climatedeniers to come up with the utterly debunked claim that the ancient Chinese have already taken that route centuries ago and that therefor, global warming is a hoax.

    August 30, 2010 at 6:56 am |
  3. EVCW

    Sign of the times, much as the Gulf disaster. It's just a matter of time before there's another spill, but this time in the Arctic -a disaster of epic proportions waiting to happen...Man is so stupid.

    August 30, 2010 at 7:01 am |
  4. Marina

    this day was going to arrive at some point. Human race is so stupid! Really sad.

    August 30, 2010 at 7:42 am |
  5. Александр Лобасов


    SCF Baltica just get through the Arctic and now heading south to Shanghai this week. This maiden Arctic journey is successfull –congratulation !!!

    Now we should start looking for Arctic resrouces for sales to the Chinese buyers.


    August 30, 2010 at 8:15 am |
  6. EveryoneAndNonone

    Tan is right, money is first in everything, backed by stupidity. Eating, drinking and breathing are not important at all. Very weak and very sad. Selfish, self-obsessed fools. You have to wonder whether man was purposefully designed to fail. For a bit of fun?!!

    August 30, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  7. Matt

    @Tanguicho: They're cutting 5000 miles from this journey, which means 45% less overall pollution. Or where you just yelling words at someone? Try to connect the dots before screaming in rage.

    August 30, 2010 at 8:44 am |
  8. iain newby

    seems strange that in one of the early james bond movies a quote is made by blofelt or spectre as to man having modern technology so as to be able to melt the polar ice caps in order to send ship through more rapidly.
    has spectre let the cat out the bag ?

    August 30, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  9. Renato

    These people should be put in prison.
    Everyday we see record highs of floods and cold weather one places where it never rained, and on other places we see droughts in seasons that used to be rain 20 years ago.

    If no one takes responsability and everyone just jumps for the profit not caring about anything else then it should be considered a criminal act against not just the future generations but the current ones aswell.

    Where the hell is U.N to do something about it, where the hell is anyone to do something about it when corporate greed kills our future.
    Specially because if this planet dies, the first people to leave it will be the very ones that made profit from its destruction.

    Where is justice?

    August 30, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  10. fastbreak

    Cutting the distance for transport in half – and, incidentally, saving the costs of a Suez channel transfer – is tempting. The good news would be it saves on the ENERGY needed to make that trip. The bad news is the potential for disaster and the CERTAINTY of a measure of pollution even when no disaster occurs! Off the cuff I cannot say if the good will outweigh even the latter of the bad things.

    One thing is certain though: the older a tanker, the more likely a disaster is. This route SHOULD be reserved for the NEWEST, DOUBLE-HULLED tankers ONLY, no exceptions. But I'm afraid the mercenary spirit of a few will win from the good stewardship of the many.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:27 am |
  11. Mario's younger brother (the smarter one).


    I didn't know they had nuclear power ice breakers for over 200 years. The captains of these nuclear ships must have been very frustrated to not have been able to navigate these waters since the 1800's.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:33 am |
  12. Dave

    And what if one of these is hit by a TITANIC size iceburg in the Arctic.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:33 am |
  13. Pat

    Unfortunately it is we, the consumers who demand cheap and abundant energy & products, who are at the root of this problem. Energy consumption and especially waste could be very easily reduced but people are just too stupid or lazy to make the effort. Or they're ignorant and not aware of the problems their consumption and waste cause.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:44 am |
  14. carl botha

    The ancient Chinese have already taken that route centuries ago and therefor global warming is a hoax.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:03 am |
  15. Michael

    This is good news. Now the tankers will burn much less fuel to get the oil and gas to its destination, thereby reducing greenhouse emissions.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:26 am |
  16. Jeremy S.

    Who among us here does not use oil,... please raise your hand so we can all cheer out your name as our hero.

    For the rest of us mere mortals, the moment our view of the changes that should happen in the world become the same as the changes we actually make in our own lives, will be the beginning of the end nonsence.

    Don't want to see oil tankers using the northern route, stop using oil.
    Don't want to see GMOs on your table, plant your own salad.
    Don't want to see kids offing eachother in school, take the time to raise your own kids with love. If that requires you to lose your job, then do it, your kids will love you more for it. Worried about not being able to put food on the table, see previous on planting your own salad. Worried about losing that house? Don't worry it doesn't suit the lifestyle someone complaining about oil giants should be striving for.

    God bless!

    August 30, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  17. john

    i beleive that saving the travel of 5,000 nautical miles through rugh waters and narrow cannals is indeed good for the environment:
    1. less fossil fules consumption by the tankers themselvs.
    2. less dangerous voyage.
    3. more efficient use of the Tanker will lead to price reduction and thus benfit for all.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:10 am |
  18. jack spade

    Genius! Any way we can exploit and ecological natural route towards profit is the greatest example of both mans natural dominance and that of capitalism. Those folks that are so quick to refute this as another money grab should asks themselves do they like to pay more or less for gas? If their answer is anything other than the obvious, they should sit back and try to refute their own naivete.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  19. peter mills South Africa

    I have no doubt that the consumer will not see an advantage to the cost saving. it will all go into the pockets of the, Sergey Frank's of this world.....but we all , will have to pay for the destruction caused by a greedy few.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
  20. RonStrong

    Just one of the many benefits of global warming.

    Global warming is real. But contrary to the beliefs of climate nuts, it has many benefits. There will be winners as well as loosers. Sit back and enjoy it

    August 30, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
  21. cafields

    Global Warming Caused by CO2 is BS, this Story is BS too, the Tanker was Escorted by 2 Nuclear Powered Ice Breakers.

    August 30, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  22. nate

    Tanguicho, Mario, EVCW – you buy stuff based on price and quality. This company is delivering that to you – either making the goods you buy cheaper, or allowing you to something of better quality for the same price. You, like me, (and 6.9 billion other people in the world) are the reason this company exists. You should probably start dealing with that.

    August 30, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
  23. nalini

    Where are the global warming/climate change skeptics now?

    August 30, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  24. Phillip

    The extinction of humanity will be because all of our news articles about global warming had question marks at the end of the title.

    Thank you CNN.

    August 30, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
  25. Richard

    I agree with EVCW but think that a spill in the Arctic would be impossible to clean up. What kind of disster insurance the shipping Co. has, if any??

    August 30, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
  26. Heber

    What can we say business is business. Neither the russian nor the chinese goverment will be willing to give up economic growth(Major issues in both countries) in exchange of a climate issue. And is likely that both countries will have the social support for that like it or not.

    August 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  27. belladonna

    When all of our resources are spent and all the food and terrain is gone, who is going to sit down to eat a stack of dollar bills?

    August 30, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
  28. HR

    @ Tanguicho and @ EVCW,

    You guys are completely is so stupid. If a high caliber company such as BP is having troubles with an oil spill in "easy" waters (compared to the arctic environment standards), how can man EVER deal with an oil spill IN ARCTIC CONDITIONS!! It cost BP billions to fix the one in the Gulf...imagine the damage here...

    August 30, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
  29. NotWarmEnough

    Not only will there be more tankers and cargo vessels crossing the arctic ocean for transport, but all of the oil companies are simply and ironically drooling over drilling up the warmer arctic circle for..... more gas and oil. When does short-sighted stupidity and greed stop, and when does logic and caution begin? If we find out later that our burning is screwing up the climate, it'll be too late to stop it.

    August 30, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
  30. Ferdinand

    It was argued some 5 years ago that an arctic crossing will only be possible by 2020 the earliest......! Floods in Pakistan, fires in Russia and Canada... droughts everywhere etc. Be prepared for the toughest changes. The sun has not been active for five years... and now it is roaring back into hammering this earth with force. Things will heat up even more. If we do not pull together (clean up our thinking), we will have calamities all over.

    August 30, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  31. DSwiss

    Yet another region to be ruined by Capitalism. Thanks SCF, a proud moment for you, right?

    August 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  32. Binchwaz

    Soviet icebreakers escorted German tankers through the Arctic in 1940. The route has been taken many times. It means nothing in terms of whether there is any global warming.

    August 30, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
  33. Arno Arrak

    I have to explain something about Arctic warming: it is not caused by the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide but is a result of warm water brought up by ocean currents that is melting the ice. It is not new but started suddenly at the turn of the twentieth century when a rearrangement of North Atlantic current system took place. Prior to that the Arctic had been slowly cooling for two thousand years as Kaufman et al. showed in their article last October. As a result of this sudden switch warm water of the Gulf Stream reaches deep into the Russian arctic and is responsible for opening the northern sea route. A lesser amount of warm water enters through the Bering Strait and keeps the Chuckchi Sea ice free. In 2007 more than usual warm water came through that strait thanks to strong poleward winds and opened up a large bubble on that side of the Arctic while the Gulf Stream side hardly changed. The warming was interrupted from 1940 to 1960 but then resumed and is still going on. It is the only real part of global warming that exists since no trace of anthropogenic global warming has ever been observed, Read:

    August 30, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  34. Zaire67

    A great leap without the logistical details on how the route was charted. The Russians routinely travel to the North Pole. With GPS, satellite mapping as well as advanced Ice Breaker technology, travel to the North Pole is not as difficult as it may seem. I've been to the north pole twice ( once in the late 70's and again in the early 90's).

    August 30, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
  35. JerryB2

    This sounds like one big step forward for mankind.

    If those individuals that are negative about this step want to demonstrate the sincerity of their beliefs then they have two options.
    First: Stop driving. Stop heating their homes. These individuals simply must decide to live up to their convictions.

    Second: Write their Congressperson and Senator to push nuclear power as fast as possible.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:02 pm |
  36. Brian Clark

    As a former Mariner, I think to sail over the pole it must play havoc with your clocks crossing multiple time zones !! yikes !!

    August 30, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  37. Kimberly

    Climate change is a natural occurrence for the planet we live on. Humans evolved during a period much warmer than that we now experience, during a 2 million year long drought. Humans have lived through at least 2 periods of extreme cooling. The past 10,000 years have been rather mild, yet even then, there have been changes extreme enough to alter the course of our history. King Henry VIII was born during a period of rapid cooling, not enough to trigger an ice age, but enough to alter the Mediterranean climate of the British Isles so that England could no longer grow the best wine-making grapes in Europe. Having nothing else that Europe was interested in buying, England could no longer feed her own people. Thus started the Age of British Colonialism, beginning with the forced market of Ireland.
    Each time humans experience climate change, it inspires reactions aiming to exert control over the situation, ranging from appeasing the gods to assigning blame on ourselves as wicked sinners who have brought punishment and suffering upon ourselves.
    Yes, the climate is changing. It does that. Rather than make a quixotic attempt to control the change, it would be far wiser to adapt and evolve.

    August 31, 2010 at 7:29 am |
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  40. Israel Ingwell

    Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions, or in the distribution of weather around the average conditions (i.e., more or fewer extreme weather events). Climate change is caused by factors that include oceanic processes (such as oceanic circulation), biotic processes, variations in solar radiation received by Earth, plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions, and human-induced alterations of the natural world.^

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    April 29, 2013 at 2:54 am |
  41. Lorenzo Masi

    Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions, or in the distribution of weather around the average conditions (i.e., more or fewer extreme weather events). Climate change is caused by factors that include oceanic processes (such as oceanic circulation), biotic processes, variations in solar radiation received by Earth, plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions, and human-induced alterations of the natural world.^

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