Royal Wagenborg, a Dutch maritime and logistics services provider, has announced that its ice-strengthened MV Africaborg has travelled from Lianyungang in China to Baie Comeau in Canada via the Northwest Passage. The Africaborg is thus the first European merchant vessel to traverse the entire Northwest Passage without the assistance of icebreakers. The journey from China to Canada through the Northwest Passage is some 3750 nautical miles shorter than the traditional route via the Panama Canal, resulting in a shorter journey and thus a reduction in emissions of over 40%.
Egbert Vuursteen, CEO of Royal Wagenborg commented: “We are aware that the Arctic is an environmentally sensitive area and we therefore feel responsible for its natural features and its inhabitants. That’s why the Africaborg used low-sulphur gas oil, more than meeting the current requirements for the Arctic. That – as well as the relatively slow speed and the shorter route – served to minimise our impact on the environment and prevent damage to it.”
Built to meet the Finnish/Swedish ice class 1A (IACS Polar Class 7), the Africaborg is suitable for summer and autumn operations in first-year ice. This ice class designation makes her suitable for worldwide operations, including in ice-covered waters such as the St Lawrence Seaway, the Baltic, and the Canadian Arctic.
For her journey through the Northwest Passage, she was equipped with state-of-the-art preventive measures to detect any unforeseen deviations in the route. These included extra ice searchlights, an additional echosounder, and Iridium satellite communication.
A second gyro compass was installed to back up the first because at that high latitude the regular magnetic compass could not act as the backup. The Africaborg also received daily ice charts, including satellite images, to guarantee a safe and efficient transit. Throughout the journey, she was supported by a shore-based team made up of Wagenborg’s technical and nautical specialists. An experienced Canadian Ice Navigator was also on board to advise the captain and the bridge during the journey.
As one of the Netherlands’ largest shipping companies, Wagenborg has always been a pioneer. Successfully conquering the Northwest Passage means that it is still a leader in terms of development. CEO Egbert Vuursteen sums up: “This remarkable journey marks a new milestone for Wagenborg, one that we couldn’t have achieved without the extraordinary preparation and support of the company’s shore-based team and Captain Erik Rosner and his crew for their safe and efficient navigation.”