Russian aspirations being realised: first Aframax tanker from the Zvezda yard. (credit: Zvezda).Russian aspirations being realised: first Aframax tanker from the Zvezda yard. (credit: Zvezda).

Russia’s most advanced shipyard, under development in the country’s Far Eastern region, has built the first in a long series of Aframax tankers, writes David Tinsley.

The 114,000dwt Vladimir Monomakh was readied for sea trials in early June at Zvezda Shipbuilding Complex, and leads a programme of 10 such vessels ordered to date for Rosnefteflot. A further two tankers of the design have been contracted by Sovcomflot.

Strengthened and equipped to 1A ice class standard to allow liftings of crude oil from Russian Arctic, sub-Arctic and eastern Baltic outlets, the 250-metre Vladimir Monomakh is powered by dual-fuel main and auxiliary machinery.

The ‘green’ agenda reflected in the design and engineering was underscored by the supply of 300 tonnes of high-performance DMF type III fuel for sea trials and mooring tests. The fuel has a sulphur content of less than 0.5%, thereby compliant with IMO’s new global cap, and was produced at Rosneft Oil Company’s Komsomolsk refinery.

The keel of the Aframax crude carrier was laid in September 2018, two years after the initial phase of production began at Zvezda. The complex is taking shape at Bolshoy Kamen under the auspices of the Far Eastern Shipbuilding & Ship Repair Centre (FESRC) of Vladivostock, and is due to be fully completed in 2024, equipped to construct all types of vessel, potentially up to 350,000dwt, plus offshore units.

Zvezda is a project of considerable economic and industrial significance to the Russian Far East, and is being established by an all-Russian consortium comprised of Rosneft Oil Company, Rosneftegaz, and Gazprombank. Rosnefteflot provided the initial tranche of newbuild work, signing contracts and options for 25 vessels.

The Russian shipbuilder’s technology partner in oil tanker construction is Hyundai Heavy Industries of South Korea, whose subsidiary Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries has delivered so far delivered six similar dual-fuel crude carriers to the Russian merchant marine, Sovcomflot’s Gagarin Prospect class.

The launch of the Vladimir Monomakh in May was a unique operation, achieved using the new, Chinese-built 40,000t lift-capacity Vympel floating transfer dock, one of the largest in Russia. Over the course of a day, the tanker was rolled by trolley transporter from the open outfitting slip to the floating dock, and then floated out.

Work is in hand at various stages on four further vessels of Rosnefteflot’s Aframax series, and steel cutting recently began on the first of the pair for Sovcomflot. The latter tonnage is scheduled to join the fleet towards the end 2022, and is being built with financing from Vneshekonombank (VEB) against the security of 20-year timecharters to the Rosneft Group.

Sovcomflot is also involved in a joint venture with Novatek that is looking to have a new fleet of Arctic LNG carriers constructed at Zvezda. Lease financing covering the first four planned newbuilds has been agreed with VEB. As the lead company behind the yard’s development, Rosneft has entered into a technology pact with Samsung Heavy Industries in relation to the LNG tanker project.

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