Sekimizu will be undertaking a five-day fact finding mission on a Russian nuclear powered icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy sailing on the NSR.
As the polar ice cap recedes due to the effects of climate change there is fast growing interest in the possibilities of shipping via the NSR cutting as much as a third of the voyage time from Asia to Europe. There is also strong interest in oil exploration and production, which requires complex offshore vessel support.
IMO said Sekimizu would see first hand the effects of climate change on sea ice coverage and assess the need for infrastructure and facilities needed for Arctic shipping.
Speaking at Nor-Shipping 2013 in June Trond Griske, Norway’s minister for trade and industry, highlighted the lack of infrastructure, the demands of quality seamanship in such harsh conditions and the lack of search and rescue infrastructure in the event of a casualty.
“The safety of ships operating in the harsh, remote and vulnerable polar areas and the protection of the pristine environments around the two poles have always been a matter of concern for IMO and many relevant requirements, provisions and recommendations have been developed over the years,” IMO said.
The 1,680 nm voyage will take Sekimizu from the port of Dikson, in the Kara Sea, to Pevek, in the East Siberian Sea.
He will be accompanied on the voyage by high level officials from the Russian Government and from the shipping industry, including Victor Olerskiy, Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation, Vyacheslav Ruksha, Director General of the Federal State Enterprise Atomflot, and Yury Melenas, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to IMO.
The IMO said it expects record activity on the NSR this year with 46 vessels sailing the route in 2012 compared to just four in 2010. Russia is reported to have granted 346 permits for the NSR this year. Last week saw the first ever Chinese vessel the Cosco 19,000 dwt multipurpose vessel Yong Sheng start a voyage from Dalian to Rotterdam.
The IMO is developing the Polar Code to govern shipping in the Arctic which is expected to come into force in 2016.