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HAMBURG: January 04, 2017. Hansa Heavy Lift (HHL) has become the first carrier to relocate two 820-ton ship-to-shore cranes via the Northern Sea Route (NSR) from St Petersburg to the port of Vostochny, in Russia's Far East.

HHL Valparaiso, also the first vessel to sail 'open hatch' through the NSR, had to reposition from Qingdao, China to St Petersburg via the passage to load the cranes, and then return the same way to complete the transit in record time.

Valparaiso NSRZAO 'SMM', a leading Russian manufacturer of heavy port handling equipment, managed the project that enabled the two cranes, measuring 61 metres high and 92 metres wide, to be shipped partially above and below the Valparaiso's deck.

HHL said the NSR has a limited window of about two months for cargo traffic. As a result the company had only a few weeks to collect and then deliver the cranes before the route completely froze over.

According to marine forecaster Weathernews, based in Chiba, Japan, while ice in the Artic sea continues to decline overall due to climate change, the Russian NSR was only open to traffic for around two weeks from September 24 to October 7, 2016, the shortest traversable period in recent years.

The agency said the reason was ice in the Laptev Sea that shortened the period in which ships could traverse the NSR without entering ice-affected areas. The Valparaiso holds Ice Class E3 equivalent to Russian Arc.4 (Finnish- Swedish Ice Class 1A), enabling it to navigate successfully ice up to 0.8 meters thick.

"In the Arctic there is no room for mistakes. During the passage, the vessel has limited connection and only a few points of shelter," said HHL Commercial manager Gleb Faldin, who added: "The Northern Sea Route was the only viable option to complete this voyage in the required timeframe."

Heinrich Nagrelli, HHL Project & Transport engineer noted: "The Northern Sea Route is an important alternative that can save weeks from a voyage, but to be successful you need careful planning and engineering, the right equipment, capable vessels, and experienced crews."

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