Sovcomflot to take the lead in Novatek JV



Russian shipowner Sovcomflot (SCF Group) will take the lead in new venture Maritime Arctic Transport, which was set up in June with domestic energy company Novatek.

Asked by Russia’s daily business broadsheet Kommersant how the new company will work, Novatek chief executive Leonid Mikhelson said: “Sovcomflot should take on the leading role in this, especially in terms of management.”

Mikhelson hinted that a foreign partner will also be invited to join this company.

Industry watchers have speculated this could be a Chinese company, since China is already a partner in the Novatek-led Yamal LNG project.

Mikhelson told the Russian paper that crewing is a key issue, as is financing ship construction.

He said that while the owners of the LNG carriers for the Yamal LNG project had worked out these issues, “it is not very easy”.

“I believe that the establishment of this company will systematise the management of the entire tanker fleet in this area and help the shipowners to obtain financing for the construction of tankers in the future,” he said.

Guaranteed cargoes

“Novatek will not invest significantly in this business,” he added. “Sovcomflot and potential partners are interested in us as a source of guaranteed cargo traffic. This is what Novatek will bring into this new company, Marine Arctic Transport, and our partners will bring their professional expertise in building the fleet and managing it.”

The Novatek chief also spoke about the new company building its own LNG-powered icebreakers, which could be used in conjunction with Russia’s nuclear ice-breaking fleet to give round-year access to LNG shipments through the Northern Sea Route.

He said the company wants the commercial speed of the LNG carriers for its next-to-be developed Arctic LNG-2 to be at least eight to nine knots, even in difficult ice conditions.

Mikhelson said Novatek is currently engaged in discussions with Russian ice-breaker specialist Atomflot.

“The number of Arc7s depends on whether the icebreaker fleet will be able to provide such speed,” he said.

Mikhelson said Yamal’s second liquefaction train will be “launched” in the first 10 days of August with the third to follow “no later than early 2019”.

Novatek has already said it expects to be producing 57-million tonnes per annum of LNG by 2030. But Mikhelson went further. With the huge gas reserves on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas, those owned by Gazprom in the region and other as-yet unallocated gas, he said: “It is possible to produce 130 to 140 million tonnes of LNG here — which is 1.5 Qatars.”