According to a new report by Bloomberg, the Arctic Silk Road has come to life as Russia sends oil to China through the Bering Strait.
Western energy sanctions against Russia have helped Moscow sail a crude tanker through the Arctic Circle for the second time ever, heading east toward China. This route, known as the “Arctic Silk Road,” may one day revolutionise the flow of energy from Russia to Asia because it takes half as long as the Suez Canal from Russia’s Baltic ports.
The Vasily Dinkov, a specialised ice-breaking tanker, left Murmansk, a city in northwest Russia, off the Barents Sea, according to vessel monitoring data provided by Bloomberg. It was carrying a load of crude oil. The ship travelled along Russia’s northern coast from October 27 to November 4 before entering the Bering Strait on November 5. This strait connects the Pacific and Arctic Oceans and separates Alaska and Russia.
The tanker is currently travelling at full speed off Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula as of Tuesday morning. On November 17, it will arrive at its destination, the Chinese port of Rizhao.
“The journey is the shortest passage between Europe and east Asia, taking half the time to reach China from Russia’s Baltic ports than the conventional route through the Suez Canal,” Bloomberg said.
Trade flows were beginning to move toward the Northern Sea Route even before the war in Ukraine and the ensuing sanctions on Moscow.
Transit routes across the Arctic will become more significant in relation to China’s and Russia’s global geopolitics, as predicted in 2017.
In 2019, Nicholas LePan of Visual Capitalist released a map of all the vital routes and resources in the Arctic.
We detailed how Russia, owner of the largest icebreaker fleet in the world, can plough through Arctic waters, allowing ships to travel the northern routes, in early 2020.
And in 2017, we cited Dmitry Kobylkin, Minister of National Resources and Environment, who predicted that by 2024, cargo shipping in Russia’s northernmost territorial waters would reach 80MM tonnes.
But there are huge logistical challenges that are entirely dependent on the weather.
The Northern Sea Route is only practical during the warmer months of the year, according to Richard Matthews, head of research at E.A. Gibson Shipbrokers Ltd. in London, who was quoted by Bloomberg.
“It looks unlikely that any significant volumes could be shipped along this route until summer,” Matthews said.
However, the Northern Sea Route will be of “vital prevalence” once spring begins, according to Viktor Katona, a chief crude analyst at Kpler:
“Europe is already sealed off.
“If they’re not buying, why circumnavigate the entire universe if you can use the Northern Sea Route to get to China in 20 days?” Katona said.
2019 saw the first crude transport over the Northern Sea Route. The second is already in progress. Additionally, Russia will have an edge via the Arctic during warmer seasons of the year in transferring petroleum and crude products to Asia in a timely manner if Western sanctions against Moscow reorganise global energy supply lines.