Cruise Ship Houses Staff for COVID-19 Response at Russian Shipyard

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The cruise ferry Princess Anastasia has arrived at a new shipyard facility outside Murmansk in order to provide extra housing for local coronavirus response efforts, according to Reuters. 

About 2,000 workers out of 11,000 at Novatek’s Belokamenka yard site have tested positive for COVID-19, and the number has been growing rapidly. The Anastasia – a cruise ferry which normally operates in the Baltic Sea – will provide berthing for staff who are believed to be healthy, according to Reuters. 

The Anastasia’s operator, Moby SPL, said in a statement that it had suspended the ship’s normal sailing schedule due to coronavirus travel restrictions. The company has “decided to temporarily use the SPL Princess Anastasia ferry in another commercial project in Murmansk, Russia as a floating hotel,” it said Wednesday. 

One of the yard’s primary contractors, Velesstroy, said that it has partially suspended its work at Belokamenka due to the outbreak. Workers will carry out a 14-day self-isolation period, and after testing negative three times, they will be permitted to return home. The demobilization effort began on Wednesday when 200 hourly workers left the construction site for flights back to their home regions. 

The giant new shipyard is intended to support the construction of Novatek’s new Arctic LNG 2 liquefaction terminal near the Yamal Peninsula. The plan calls for three liquefaction plants built on top of giant gravity-based structures (GBS), similar in concept to the first North Sea offshore oil platforms deployed in the 1970s. The GBS jackets will be built and fully fitted out at Belokamenka, then floated to the Artic LNG 2 site and “sunk” in place. Commercial operation is scheduled for 2023. 

Novatek’s previous LNG plant in the area, Yamal LNG, was built using Chinese- and European-assembled modules which were delivered to the site and connected together. By doing the assembly work at Belokamenka instead, Novatek will increase the amount of project capital expenditure that stays within Russia. 

Novatek has made clear that it will not slow down construction work for Arctic LNG 2 due to the coronavirus pandemic. “This outbreak will not affect construction works on site, nor the successive development of the Arctic LNG-2,” Novatek deputy chairman Mark Jitway told TASS.