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CIL in talks with Russian company for extraction, import of coking coal

KOLKATA:

Coal India

(CIL) is in talks with Russian coal company Vostok-Coal-Diskon to participate in the extraction of coking coal and its imports from mines in the Siberian districts of Russia, Coal India executives said.

VostokCoal-Diskon is developing coal extraction facilities at the Taimyr coal basin of Taymyr Peninsula in central Siberia. It has been exploring the area since 2016 and has recently opened two deposits that would touch peak capacity of 30 million tonnes a year.

VostokCoal will build a coal terminal and create a specialised fleet for exporting coal round the year. Plans include bringing the coal home through the relatively new, Northern Sea Route, which connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean along the icy Russian coast of Siberia and the Russian Far East, through the Bering Strait near Alaska crossing five Arctic seas.

The shipping route has opened up in the last few years due to melting Arctic polar ice cap. It cuts short the distance between Northern Europe and China by almost 40% than via the Suez Canal, and 60% than via the Cape of Good Hope, the established routes.

Vessels, however, need to negotiate dense floating ice on the route for almost 10 months a year and VostokCoal will employ nuclear-powered icebreaker ships to provide safe waterways.

“The Indian government is in dialogue with Russia for importing coking coal and participate in its production,” a senior Coal India executive said. “As part of this dialogue, and as a coal-producing company, we are in dialogues with VostokCoal and would either import or participate in coal production as directed by the Centre.”

As a first step, Coal India signed MoUs with two Russian entities in September. The first was with Far Eastern Agency for Attracting Investments and Supporting Exports, for cooperation in mining coking coal in the Russian Far East and Arctic Region. The second MoU was between Coal India and Eastern Mining Company for exploring, identifying, sourcing, negotiating and consummating mutually beneficial investment opportunities in mining in the Russian Far East.

Parallelly, VostokCoal and the Far East Investment & Export Agency also signed an MoU for collaboration and implementation of Vostok-Coal project in the Taimyr coal basin. It will allow VostokCoal to receive state’s cooperation for the project and in negotiations with potential investors and partners.

These two MoUs will follow an arrangement between Coal India and VostokCoal for mining and importing coal to India.

World’s first container ship to sail on the ‘warmer’ Arctic route

The first container ship to tackle an Arctic route along Russia’s north coast has left the Russian port of Vlapostok as it trials a journey made easier by global warming.

The Venta Maersk, which is carrying 3,600 containers, is making a trial passage through the Northern Sea route, departing from Eastern Russia and making port in St Petersburg by late September, the BBC and The Independent reported.

It will collect data as part of an effort to test the economic viability of the route. The journey could be up to 14 days faster than the more established southern route through the Indian Ocean and the Suez canal.

The 42,000-tonne Venta Maersk, carrying a shipment of frozen fish and other goods, is a new “ice class” vessel. It is designed to sail in colder seas and has a stronger hull and protected rudders.

“The trial passage will enable us to explore the operational feasibility of container shipping through the Northern Sea Route and to collect data,” Maersk said, underlining that “this is a oneoff trial designed to explore an unknown route for container shipping and to collect scientific data.” The route was once impossible due to ice but higher Arctic temparatures, combined with advances in shipping, have made it more viable.

In January, Arctic sea ice hit a record low and in March an “extreme event” was declared. The sea ice in the Bering strait reached its lowest levels in recorded history as temperatures 30C above average were recorded. According to figures from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, sea ice cover this winter was less than a third of what it was five years ago. The route has seen growing marine traffic this summer.

Settlement agreed over ship that blocked Suez Canal: Owner’s representative

A representative of the owners and insurers of the Ever Given container ship that blocked the Suez Canal in March said on Sunday that a formal settlement had been agreed with the canal authority to allow the vessel to be released.

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has held the giant ship and its crew in a lake between two stretches of the waterway since it was dislodged on March 29, amid a dispute over a demand for compensation by the SCA.

The Japanese-owned Ever Given had become stuck in high winds and remained wedged across the canal for six days, disrupting global trade.

“Preparations for the release of the vessel will be made and an event marking the agreement will be held at the Authority’s headquarters in Ismailia in due course,” Faz Peermohamed of Stann Marine, which represents owner Shoei Kisen and its insurers, said in a statement.

Earlier on Sunday an Egyptian court adjourned hearings in the compensation dispute to July 11 to allow the canal and the ship’s owner to finalise a settlement, court sources and a lawyer said.

Shoei Kisen and its insurers said last month they had reached an agreement in principle with the SCA.

The SCA had demanded $916 million in compensation to cover salvage efforts, reputational damage and lost revenue before publicly lowering the request to $550 million.

Shoei Kisen and the ship’s insurers had disputed the claim and the ship’s detention under an Egyptian court order.