SMART LNG, the joint venture established by Russia’s Sovcomflot and Novatek last year to own and operate a fleet of LNG carriers that will serve Novatek’s Arctic LNG 2 project, has obtained financing for the first four ships from VEB.RF Group, the Russian state development corporation.
The enhanced Arc7 icebreaking tankers will be constructed at the Zvezda Shipbuilding Complex in the Russian Far East to a design that will draw upon Sovcomflot’s experience gained while operating the 2017-built Christophe de Margerie, the world’s first icebreaking LNG carrier.
The expertise of South Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industry will also be enlisted to give the vessels a higher degree of icebreaking capability and maneuverability than previous ships.
The gas tankers will be operated under the Russian Federation flag while the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping will provide technical supervision during their construction.
With four natural gas projects now planned or under construction in the Arctic, Novatek has indicated it will eventually need at least 42 ice-capable Arc7 LNG carriers, ten of which will have to be built overseas to meet production requirements.
Likely bidders for the latter vessels will be South Korea’s three main builders, including Samsung, as well as China’s Hudong Zhonghua yard, a subsidiary of state-company China State Shipbuilding Corporation, that has gained LNG tanker construction experience.