What’s the difference between transportation of LNG and oil?

The history of the industrial marine transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) goes back only a little more than half a century. 1964 saw the start of regular shipments of LNG from Algeria to the United Kingdom. To this day, LNG carriers remain one of the most technologically advanced vehicles on the planet.

LNG cargo tanks are designed on the principle of a thermos: the gas is in a liquid state at a temperature of about -160 ° C and atmospheric pressure. A very thin membrane made from invar (iron-nickel alloy) of a thickness less than 1mm and an insulating material such as perlite minimize the volume of stripped gas. Modern ships lose no more than 0.09 - 0.15% of cargo per day. This gas is supplied to the engine department and is used as a marine fuel along with fuel oil and diesel fuel. However, in order to minimize the loss of gas, vessels are designed with engines that are able gather a speed of about 20 knots (almost 40 km / h). Therefore, the contours of LNG carriers significantly differ from those of crude oil or dry bulk carriers.

How does a geophysical exploration research vessel operate?

The SCF fleet includes the Vyacheslav Tikhonov research vessel. It is equipped with instruments for multi-dimensional seismic research designed to study the Earth's crust. Seismic research is carried out in three dimensions by a wide range of scientific equipment. It includes hardware initiating audio signals and recording devices. The vessel tows eight seismic cables, each of them six kilometres long, with a distance of 100m between them.

Compressed air produced by a high-pressure compressor is supplied to pneumosources ("guns") under a pressure of about 2,000 pounds per square inch. The “blasting” of the "guns" is carried out remotely by an electrical pulse. The sound wave generated using the air gun subarray extends deep into the earth and encounters border rocks of different densities. At each border some portion of energy reflects and some refracts and goes into greater depths. The reflected sound waves are recorded by the receivers – the cables - and are transferred to the ship’s seismic laboratory. So, with the help of modern recording equipment controlled by scientific personnel, data is recorded on magnetic media, pre-processed, analyzed, packaged and sent for detailed research in the field data centres. Using these results, a temporary projection of the Earth's crust can be built in 3D format. Compared to two-dimensional profiling it gives a more detailed picture of the structure of the crust in the study area.

Of course, seismic exploration is controlled by a scientific party. The main objective of the crew is to ensure that the exploration is completed without incident. They are required to carefully coordinate the scientific part of the ship’s management. In light of the specific purpose of the vessel, particular responsibility lies with the mechanics: the vessel should not stop unnecessarily, as the expensive equipment on board can break if the speed is reduced. This imposes significant restrictions on the manoeuvring characteristics of the vessel.

Who and what do icebreaking supply vessels supply?

Icebreaking supply vessels are able to perform a variety of functions, the most important of which is shipping to offshore drilling and production platforms. For example, a series of Vitus Bering tankers are able to carry liquid cargo (diesel fuel, water, base oil, drilling fluids) and dry cargo (cement, barite, bentonite). These ships also carry deck cargo: containers, pipes and drilling equipment.

Icebreaking supply vessels protect the environment in the regions where they work, and can be used to deal with oil spills. Vitus Bering vessels carry production equipment manufactured by Lamor: 600 metre long offshore oil spill booms, two ice brush skimmers to collect oil from the sea surface, a boat to charge the boom, стрелы для установки системы легких бонов и сами легкие боны as well as a dispersant system.

Vessels are also used to secure the platforms. They have powerful fire-fighting equipment and high-speed boats to lift people from the water. In the event of an emergency evacuation of personnel on board the platform there is room to accommodate 195 people.

Icebreaking supply vessels can be used as tugs. The engine output on the Vitus Bering series of ships is 18,000 kW. These vessels can move at a speed of 8 knots through ice with a thickness of 90cm and 20cm of snow cover - or at a speed of 3 knots through ice with a thickness of 1.5m with a snow cover of 20 cm. The ships’ systems and equipment are designed and manufactured to operate in a temperature range from minus 35 to plus 30 degrees Celsius, which corresponds to the severe climate in the northern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, on the shelf of Sakhalin Island.

What is a "supertanker"?

A supertanker is a vessel of the size VLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier). The SCF supertankers Svet and Shanghai, each with deadweight of 320,000 tonnes, became the first and only vessels of this class in the Russian maritime fleet.

The Svet series of vessels are truly outstanding in all respects. In order to stop a VLCC at a speed of 14 knots, the main engine has to work for 17 minutes at full speed, and use almost 1.5 tonnes of fuel. Even then it will take about two nautical miles for the vessel to come to a complete stop. According to captains, managing a VLCC is twice as hard as controlling a standard Aframax tanker.

A VLCC with a full load is not able to pass through the Suez Canal. The canal is only 20 metres deep, while the depth of load for supertankers is 22.6 metres.

VLCC tankers are over 300 metres long. If the ship were to be placed vertically on the Hudson River, it would be three and a half times higher than the Statue of Liberty. The Eiffel Tower would be eight metres shorter than the vessel.


What technology can improve energy efficiency?

According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the maritime industry is responsible for 3.3 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This figure may be reduced through more efficient energy consumption. Measures in the field of technical and commercial operation of the fleet help to increase efficiency.

The MARPOL Convention introduced the Ships Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP). In addition, in 2013 the Committee for Environmental Protection approved the introduction by the IMO of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), which has tightened environmental requirements for new vessels. For ships constructed between 2015 and 2019, energy efficiency should be increased by 10 per cent. For ships built in 2020-2024, this figure should be improved by a further 20 per cent, and for ships constructed in subsequent years - 30 per cent.

According to some data, if EEDI is applied to all vessels, not only to those which are still under construction, it will reduce CO2 emissions by 220 million tonnes and save up to 50 billion dollars per year. While working on new projects SCF introduces modern technologies to increase the energy efficiency of the fleet. The proposed formula for calculating the EEDI is the quantity of fuel used (translated into CO2 emissions) to do the work - namely to transport a given amount of cargo at a given estimated speed. Examples of technological solutions to improve energy efficiency include: the use of fuel-efficient engines; wider utilisation of waste heat; use of alternative energy sources; expansion of ships; an increase in the average speed by optimising hull forms and propulsion systems. The probability that the index of structural efficiency will become mandatory for existing ships is very small. The possibility of upgrading the ship to EEDI is limited: it is practically impossible to change the contours of the body, increase load capacity, or replace the propeller engine. Nevertheless, the company is constantly searching for new technologies, and examining their potential implementation as part of the programme for modernisation of the fleet.

There is another concept - EEOI (Energy Efficiency Operational Index, or operational energy efficiency ratio). The coefficients EEDI and EEOI, despite their same units of measurement, are not directly related. There are currently still inconsistencies in the methods for calculating and comparing EEOI, but Sovcomflot has begun to gather statistical data for later analysis of the efficiency of the fleet as a whole, and individual types of ships in particular.

The introduction of the ship energy efficiency management plan (SEEMP) to the global fleet aims to reduce fuel consumption (and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions). It is known that you can save energy by maintaining the proper technical condition of the vessel and mechanisms, and by competent fleet operations and planning. In order to determine the "weak points" and further methods to reduce fuel consumption, external consultants are asked to conduct energy audits. As a part of the SEEMP programme research is carried out into, for example, the real effect of the dynamic differentiation of vessels over long distances.

How are tankers loaded from oil production platforms in icy conditions?

The answer to this question is well known to the crews of the Arctic shuttle tankers Mikhail Ulyanov and Kirill Lavrov, which work on the Prirazlomnoye project.

The Prirazlomnaya platform is equipped with two shipping "coupons" at its corners. The vessel must be kept in the working sector of "coupons" nose in the direction of the shipping unit’s axis. Only in this position can the tanker carry out cargo operations. Therefore, Arctic tankers are equipped with a dynamic positioning system whose characteristics are superior to conventional ships.

Typically, a conventional shuttle tanker is equipped with two main engines with variable-pitch propellers, has thrusters, and in some cases additional retractable azimuth thrusters. Arctic shuttle tankers with such a high ice class as the Mikhail Ulyanov are truly unique. Although the dynamic positioning system is nothing new, using it in combination with a reinforced hull and powerful propulsion manoeuvre is a state-of-the-art solution for conducting specific tasks in the harsh conditions of the Barents Sea.

What is the concept of Ice Management and what is "the principle of winterization"?

A third of the SCF fleet has ice class, involved in major Arctic projects, works on the Northern Sea Route, therefore ensuring the safe navigation of vessels and cargo operations in ice - Ice Management - is of particular importance for the company. Although the name of the concept came into circulation recently, Russian sailors have gained experience of working in ice over many years of Arctic exploration, particularly in the 60s - 80s of the last century. When designing high ice class vessels "SCF" has always sought to minimize operational constraints. The fleet has GFR tankers capable to go in ice up to 1.5 meters thick.

The principle of winterization is to ensure reliable operation of the vessel at temperatures of minus 40-45 degrees. Heating of ballast таков made from stainless steel, is provided by heating the air intake for the main and auxiliary diesel engines. Also there is heating on the upper deck and ship ladders, including rails and exterior doors. Lifeboats and rafts have internal and external heating. Such палубные механизмы as deck machinery windlass, mooring winches, stern ladders and front ladder, provided by heated covers. Steam pipes and trucks equipped with electro-heating and temperature insulation. Principle of winterization is fully implemented on the Arctic shuttle SKF tankers involved in the "Varandey" and "Prirazlomnoye" projects.

What are the advantages of electronic navigational charts?

Among the main advantages of these revolutionary innovations is, of course, the improvement in the efficiency of ship management by reducing decision-making time. All necessary information is concentrated on the electronic display. Automatisation of the process of correction cards reduces the load on the navigational structure and improves the quality of amendments. Leading manufacturers of electronic displays and electronic charts also claim that getting rid of paper charts will help to make significant cost savings. All these features ensure proactive navigation, instead of reactive.

The International Convention of Life Safety at Sea (SOLAS 74) requires all conventional ships to be certified with an Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS). Since July 2012 the innovation has been implemented in tankers under construction. It has only been a feature of the existing tanker fleet since 2015, but electronic displays have directly influenced the competitiveness of shipping companies for several years.

SCF Group fleet has equipped with electronic chart systems for several years. But the installation of equipment on board ships is just the tip of the iceberg. ECDIS radically changed the approach to navigation, and here first of all came to the need to change our way of thinking, and gain experience in operating new equipment. SCF Group companies have been working on this for at least the last ten years.


Does employment in the SCF fleet comply with the laws of the Russian Federation?
  • Seafarers working under the Russian flag fall under the jurisdiction of the Labour Code of the Russian Federation, according to which they are employed.
  • The primary legal documents for seafarers working under foreign flags are:
    1. The Marpol Convention № 179 of 1996 “On recruitment and employment of seafarers”, which entered into force on 22.04.2000 and which was ratified by the Russian Federation on 27.08.2001;
    2. Recommendation № 186 “On recruitment and employment of seafarers”, 1996.

Another relevant legal document is the Associated Marpol Convention on labour in the shipping industry (2006). The Convention is ratified by the Bill of Rights for seafarers and the “fourth column” of shipping legislation, together with the Solas, STCW and Marpol conventions. It comprises five sections, and addresses the following subjects:

  • minimal requirements for seafarers on board vessels;
  • conditions of recruitment;
  • accommodation, vacation, attendance and nutrition;
  • health protection and social security, medical and personal assistance;
  • meeting requirements and monitoring of their performance.

SCF Group does not employ seafarers working under foreign flags.

How does employment with SCF Group begin, and what are the requirements for potential recruits?

Each candidate must complete an application form, which can be downloaded on this website, and send it by email to the SCF office closest to them: St. Petersburg, Novorossiysk or Vladivostok.

After the application form has been processed, in the event that a vacancy arises the coordinator of the fleet reserve will contact you to inform you of the next required steps (it is possible that more information will be required, for example a copy of navigation certificates, or letters of recommendation from your previous employer). There will be an interview with a representative of the company in one of our offices, which is a compulsory condition of employment with SCF Group. You will also be tested in your specialist discipline and on your knowledge of English.

After these tests have been passed, the candidate may be considered for the vacancy, on a competitive basis. For all positions only diplomas and classification certificates issued by the maritime fleet are accepted (unfortunately this does not include fishing). A maritime education is compulsory for captains and engineering officers.

Can I undergo training on the company’s vessels?

Sovcomflot invites cadets from Russia’s naval academies for training on an annual basis, on the condition that they have received high average academic grades and pass preliminary interviews in the company’s offices.

Over the past year,187 cadets from Ushakov State Maritime University, Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping and Admiral Nevelskoy Maritime State University have been sent for navigation practice, along with 30 trainee seamen and trainee motormen.

More information can be found in the section “Starting your career”.

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