Russia: Better weather forecasts needed to increase Arctic shipping

Icebreaker Tor leads a cargo ship at the port of Sabetta in Arctic Russia. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)
A quickly growing number of ships are confronting the thick ice and tough climatic conditions on Russia’s Northern Sea Route, and pressure on the country’s fleet of icebreakers is mounting.

The Ministry of Natural Resources now wants more ships to move around in the icy waters independently, without icebreaker assistance.

What is needed is better weather forecasts, the ministry argues.

The Russian state meteorology service Roshydromet is now commissioned to step up cooperation with the shipping companies. Specialists from Roshydromet will provide individual guidance on ice and weather conditions to the respective vessels and help lead the way through the icy waters.

Ships serving Norilsk Nickel and the Yamal LNG carriers have already gained positive experience, the Natural Resource Ministry informs after a recent meeting with key stakeholders.

Better weather forecasts needed

The need for better weather forecasts is most critical in the area around the Gulf of Ob where shipping is most dense.

In order to increase security, the large LNG carriers shuttling to and from the Sabetta terminal are in dire need of better short-term weather prognosis, the shipping companies said in the meeting and called for assistance from Roshydromet.

They also call for more satellite monitoring and an expanded network of meteorology stations and more drifting buoys in the area, a press release from the Ministry of Natural Resources reads.

A key issue for the Arctic Forum

According to Minister Sergey Donskoy, Arctic shipping and the Northern Sea Route will be a key focus in this year’s Arctic Forum in Arkhangelsk, the great Russian conference on Arctic issues.

2017 was a year with remarkable growth in Russian Arctic shipping. In the course of the year, as much as 9,737 million tons of goods was shipped to and from ports on the Northern Sea Route, an increase of almost 35 percent from 2016.

And several remarkable records were made. Among them was the speed record of the general cargo vessel «Baltic Winter» which spent only 5,6 days on its way from the Bering Strait to the Novaya Zemlya. The new LNG tankers «Boris Vilkitsky» and «Fedor Litke» both sailed into the eastern part of the Northern Sea Route in mid-December, and the «Eduard Toll» passed the Bering Strait on its way towards Sabetta as late as 25th December.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Arctic nickel, not oil, could soon power the world’s cars, Blog by Mia Bennett, Cryopolitics

China: It’s official: China releases its first Arctic Policy, Blog by Mia Bennett, Crypolitics

Finland: An optimistic picture for Finland’s economy in 2018, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway:  Can Barents region become a superhub on China’s Arctic Silk Road?, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Arctic seaports bustle as shipping on Russia’s Northern Sea Route reaches new high, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden:  Swedish minister Margot Wallström takes on the lead in Barents, Radio Sweden

United States: Big questions emerge over $43 billion gas-export deal between Alaska and China, Alaska Dispatch News

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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