Maritime transport

Maritime transport ship. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Human activity
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A wide range of shipping activities take place throughout the Barents Sea, involving merchant vessels, cruise ships, research and fishing vessels, ice-breakers, and naval and coast-guard vessels. Industries involved include ports and harbors, passenger transport, tourism, and offshore petroleum and mining operations. Shipping of oil and gas (and other hazardous cargo) was relatively stable with approximately 250 vessel transits per year between 2005 and 2008 (Stiansen et al., 2009).

Shipping activity

In numbers, fishery activities currently account for most of the shipping traffic. The cruise industry contributes to annual and seasonal variations. A large share of the goods to, as well as within, Norway's three northernmost counties is transported by ship. For Russia, sea shipping is of great importance connecting territories with each other and playing a vital role in external economic activities. The role of sea shipping remains essential in supporting the life of coastal communities in Russia.

The biggest liquid commodity carried by ships are oil, crude and products, being carried from northern Russia and Northern Norway to destinations in Europe and some to Northern America, by LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) and LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gases) carriers from Melkøya,crude oil and product tankers to Norwegian and Russian oil depots. In 2013, nineterminals in the Russian Arctic from the Ob Bay in the Kara Sea to the Kola Bay in the Barents Sea received crude, oil products and gas condensate by production pipelines, river tankers and railways over land and shipped the cargo by sea for export. A number of small sea tankers went from those terminals all the way to European and American destinations, but most of the petroleum cargo was transshipped in the ice-free areas of the Barents Sea, at FSO in the Kola Bay or STS (ship to ship transfer) terminals in the Northern Norway. According to Russian port administrations, customs and operators, petroleumterminals in the Russian arctic offloaded between 9 and 1512 million tons of liquid hydrocarbons for export annually in the period from 2004 to 2013 (Figure 2.5.12.)

Figure 2.5.12 Liquid hydrocarbons exported from the Russian Arctic through the Barents Sea (Bambulyak et al., forthcoming).Figure 2.5.12 Liquid hydrocarbons exported from the Russian Arctic through the Barents Sea (Bambulyak et al., forthcoming).

Figure 2.5.12 Liquid hydrocarbons exported from the Russian Arctic through the Barents Sea (Bambulyak et al., forthcoming).

The biggest crude oil export terminalVarandey with a capacity of 12.5 million ton/year was set in operation in June 2008. In2009, it sent7.4 million tons of crudeoil for export. In 2012, Varandey export volumesdropped to 3.1 million tons, but increased in 2013 to 5.4 as new onshore oil fields were connected to the terminal with the pipeline grid. It is predicted, that Varandey and other terminals will ship between10 and 15 million tons of Russian crude oil, gas condensate and refinedproducts for export via the Barents Sea up to 2015. These annual volumes will be growing with increase of oil production and shipments from Prirazlomnaya platform in the Pechora Sea that got the first commercial oil in December 2013 and can offload 6 million tons of crude oil when reaches its maximum production level. Two new ports and petroleum export terminals are constracted in the Ob Bay of the Kara Sea.The big Sabetta port with Yamal LNG will have the annual export capacityof 30 million tons of LNG and gas condensate when completed, and the offshore terminal in Novy Port is constructed to offload 8 million tons of crude oil per year.

In addition to Russian oil and petroleum products transported by the Barents Sea, in 2007 Snøhvit gas field and LNG plant on Melkøya started to produce and ship gas condensate, LNG and LPG. In 2007, Melkøya offloaded 67 000 tons of gas condensate, and 131 000 tons of LNG. In 2008, they shipped almost 2 million tons of gas products a year. In 2009-2013, the plantoffloaded annually between 4 and 5 million tons of liquid hydrocarbons with majority of LNG.

Analyses of the tanker traffic show that the type of petroleum cargo has been varying from year to year. While terminals in the Kara and Pechora seas have been offloading crude oil and gas condensate produced in their immediate areas, the port terminals in the White and Barents Sea have been working with light and heavy petroleum products and gas condensate delivered long distances by the railway (Bambulyak and Frantzen, 2011). In 2013, crude oil, most of all from Varandey, had the biggest share(46%) in petroleum cargo volumes exported from Russia through the Barents Sea, while gas condensate was on the second place.The coming years, we can expect that the share of crude oil will be growing due to bothincrease of oil shipments from Varandey and Prirazlomnaya, and decrease ofgas condensate shipments from terminals in the White Sea, asa new terminal has been put on stream in Ust'-Luga in the Baltic Sea.

Ship to ship transfer (STS)

The first STS terminal was established in the Kola Bay of the Barents Sea back in 2002. For the period from 2002 to 2004, five more STS and FSO (Floating Storage and Offloading vessel) terminals were established in the Ob Bay of the Kara Sea, the Onega Bay of the White Sea, and the Kola Bay. STS terminal in the Onega Bay transhipped heavy fuel oil in 2003 and was closed after the accidental oil spill. One STS terminal in the Kola Bay worked for three months only in 2004 and was closed. STS terminal in the Ob Bay tranships crude from Western Siberia during summer and sends it to FSO Belokamenka in the Kola Bay or directly to big West European ports. Belokamenkareceives most of crude oil cargo from Timano-Pechora shippied from Varandey, and it can be used for transhippingPrirazlomnoye oil. A heavy fuel oil export terminal in MokhnatkinaPakhtain the Kola Bay also uses tanker as FSO.

In Norwegian part of the Barents Sea, STS transfer of petroleum products has been carried out since 2002 at two sites in Finnmark, Bøkfjord and Sarnesfjord. Gas condensate is the main product being transhipped on these locations today, but there are pending applications for STS and FSO transfer of other products, including crude oil. There has been launched project for construction of the oil depot and offloading terminal in Kirkenes with projected capacity up to 20 million tons per year. The terminal is planned for transhipping crude oil coming from the Russian arctic.

As long as tankers sail along the coast, there are established shipping lanes (obligatory in the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea), but the traffic to and from the STS transfer sites in the fjords will go close to land. Transfers in the fjords, either at dockside or under anchor, are considered to be Norwegian industrial activity, and is thus under control of the Norwegian Environmental Agency (MDir) and the Norwegian Coastal Administration (Kystverket). STS transfers outside of Norwegian territorial waters, as long as the ships are under their own engine power, are subject to the provisions of the MARPOL 73/78 (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Convention, Annex I.

Discharges from maritime transport

The day-to-day impacts of shipping on the environment are caused by ordinary operational discharges. Discharges of sludge and oily bilge water from machinery spaces and discharges of oil and oily mixtures from the cargo area (slops) are regulated internationally by MARPOL. The Convention permits a certain level of discharges of oily bilge water and oily mixtures from tank washings. However, all ships are required to have segregated ballast tanks, and this canalmost eliminate discharges of oily ballast water. Oil slicks on the sea with unidentified source are reported every year, and most of these are assumed to come from illegal discharges from ships.

Introduction of alien species

Maritime transports to Norway and tanker traffic to Northwest Russia are currently dominated by vessels from large European ports, and there is small share of vessels sailing from Asia along the Northern Sea Route (NSR). These tend largely to call at ports in the same biogeographical area, and take ballast water from areas where the flora and fauna is similar to that in Barents Seawaters. However, there is a risk of the further spread of alien species that are established in these waters to the Barents Sea, either in ballast water or attached to ships’ hulls. Other categories of vessels such as general cargo and container ships operate in a global market. Many of these are likely to come from foreign ports in other biogeographical zones, but where physical and chemical conditions are similar to those in Barents Sea. In the future, there may be a particularly high level of risk associated with use of NSR combined with failure to treat ballast water.