North Russian regions want extension of Arctic shipping route

Icebreaker in a floating dock in Murmansk. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Five governors propose to establish a Big Northern Sea Route that stretches from St.Petersburg to Vladivostok.

The regional leaders of St.Petersburg, Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Sakhalin and Kamchatka have sent a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev where they propose the extension of the Northern Sea Route the Baltic and Pacific Seas.

According to the governors, the extension of the route will help synchronize the development of port infrastructure and harmonize logistical chains in the Arctic. A representative of the deputy prime minister’s office confirms that the letter will be addressed in the “nearest future,” newspaper RBC reports.

The current Northern Sea Route stretches from the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya to the Bering Strait.

Call for liberalization in Arctic waters

Among the authors of the letter is Andrei Chibis, Governor of Murmansk. He argues that the state must increase subsidies for marine transportation, including on icebreaker services.

Chibis also calls for a liberalization of sailing requirements in Arctic waters. When there is no ice on the Northern Sea Route, ships without ice-class should be allowed to sail and there should be no mandatory icebreaker escort, he argues.

The letter is reported to have been sent on the 20th February. It is likely to have been discussed in a government meeting on Arctic shipping on the 31st of March.

Russian government officials are under major pressure to boost shipments on the Northern Sea Route following Putin’s so-called May decrees from 2018. The President wants annual shipments on the route to reach 80 million tons by 2024. In 2020, the volumes amounted to 33 million tons.

It is not the first time that an extension of the NSR is proposed as a way to reach the desired 80 million tons. State company Rosatom is itself working with its projected Northern Sea Transport Corridor that stretches from Murmansk to Kamchatka.

Container shipments key to future

Rosatom and its Northern Sea Route Directorate is responsible for development of shipping in the far northern region. According to the company, container shipments will ultimately constitute a key share of Arctic shipping, and a new container terminal is under planning on the western shores of the Kola Bay.

Murmansk Governor Chibis this week confirmed that he fully supports the plans developed by Rosatom and its subsidiary Rusatom Cargo.

The federal government admits that trans-shipments on the Northern Sea Route is more expensive than the Suez Canal, and Deputy Premier Trutnev in this week’s government meeting requested Rosatom and the Ministry of Far East and Arctic to come up with proposals on how to make the route more competitive.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Chinese barges headed for Canadian Northwest Territories on cross-continental delivery mission, CBC News

Estonia: Estonian president favorable towards Arctic railway project, cautious about future of Arctic shipping, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Arctic shipments to Asia grow as LNG carriers shuttle to eastern markets, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russian transport minister says Northern Sea Route a step closer to year-round passage, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Carnival Corporation ships switch to cleaner fuel on Arctic cruises, Radio Canada International

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

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