On June 3, Russian president Vladimir Putin attended the naming ceremony for the icebreaking LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie, the first ship in an entirely new vessel class.
The de Margerie is a cross between a 80,000 dwt LNG carrier and an Arc7 class double-acting icebreaker, with good seakeeping characteristics going ahead and good icebreaking capability going astern. She is designed to transit Russia's Northern Sea Route eastward to Asia in summer months and will trade on a shorter route westward to Europe in winter. In sea trials earlier this year, she made about seven knots continuously in five feet of ice – more than twice the rated speed of the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy.
The de Margerie moored at St. Petersburg (offices of the President of Russia)
"This modern vessel will bear the name of a French entrepreneur and a real, big friend of our country, of Russia – Cristophe de Margerie," Putin said. "He possessed a unique strategic vision and did so much to strengthen friendly, partnership relations with Russia, while being the driving force behind the implementation of a range of large joint energy projects."
Christope de Margerie was the CEO of Total until his death in a plane crash in 2014. He was a frequent critic of U.S. and European economic sanctions on Russia over the annexation of Crimea; under these sanctions, U.S. entities are forbidden to participate in a number of E&P activities with Russian oil firms, including offshore Arctic projects and shale gas developments.
Total has significant investments in Russian oil and gas, and it is a key partner in Novatek's Yamal LNG plant in northern Siberia, the facility that the de Margerie and her sister ships are designed to serve. In his speech, Putin emphasized that the Yamal project is "highly important" for many things – for Russia, for Europe, for the opening of Arctic sea routes, for technological advancement and for "the development of the world's power industry." Yamal will not be Russia’s last Arctic LNG plant: Novatek is already recruiting investors for a second terminal, Arctic LNG-2, which would be built just across the Gulf of Ob from Yamal.