Thursday, September 26, 2013

Arctic history - made again but quietly

Shipping history has been made again in the Canadian arctic (although it has not made too many headlines).
The first commercial cargo voyage through the Northwest Passage was completed last week by the Nordic Orion. More than 100 ships (not including submarines) have crossed from Atlantic to Pacific or vice versa, through Canada's north, including many government ships, both Canadian and US ships, several cruise ships, and pleasure craft, but this is the first revenue making cargo carrying passage from Pacific to Atlantic.
Contrary to common parlance a Northwest Passage is not a body of water or even a route (there are at least five water routes across Canada's arctic). In fact a Northwest Passage is a complete trip which crosses both the entry to the Bering Strait and Davis Street (in either direction). Therefore many ships have worked in the western arctic and sailed and returned to the eastern arctic without making a complete Northwest Passage.

Nordic Orion (which has never visited Halifax to my knowledge) was built in 2011 for the now defunct Sanko Steamship Co Ltd, as Sanko Orion. It is a bulk carrier of 40,142 gross tons, 75,603 deadweight, and is built to a high ice class, and features the full width bridge common on harsh weather ship.Last year Nordic Bulk Carriers of Denmark bought and re-named the ship.
Not surprisingly the ship has sailed to the St.Lawrence River in winter, where it has been photo'd before. There are lots of images of the ship on the internet:

Nordic Orion loaded metallurgical coal in Vancouver on September 6 bound for Pori, Finland, and earlier this week sailed into Baffin Bay. The trip cut four to five days and 1,000 miles off a Northeast Passage, and allowed the ship to load 73,000 tonnes. A Panama Canal Passage would have limited the ship to a 60,000 tonne cargo due to draft restrictions.
Despite insurer's concerns, the ship made the trip safely. Much pre-planning was required, and special monitoring was also in place, but  compared to the famous Manhattan voyages of the 1960s (which were really expeditions), it was an effortless trip.


Halifax has figured, if only peripherally in many Northwest Passage, including the famous St.Roch trips and those of HMCS Labrador, CCS Hudson, and scores of others not to mention Manhattan. We have also been visited by many of the passenger ships that have made successful passages.

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