Shipping on Northern Sea Route on course for 35 million tons in 2021

A view shows Russia’s floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov and tugboat Dixon before the departure from the service base of Rosatomflot company for a journey along the Northern Sea Route to Chukotka in Murmansk, Russia August 23, 2019. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

There is considerable growth in shipments on Russia’s remote Arctic route, but shippers will have to boost deliveries by more than 100 percent in only two years if they are to reach the target set by the Kremlin.

In what appears as a mission impossible, President Vladimir Putin has requested that shipments on the Northern Sea Route reach 80 million tons already by year 2024.

Figures from the Russian Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport show that shipping volumes on the route in the first 9,5 months of 2021 increased by 4,5 percent compared with the same period in 2020.

If that growth continues through the year, volumes are likely to reach almost 35 million tons, up from 32,97 million in 2020.

That means that shippers will have to increase shipments on the route by as much as 45 million tons in only two years if they are to meet Putin’s desired target.

Moscow sees the Northern Sea Route as a top priority project that ultimately could open an alternative trade route between Asia and Europe. Several major nuclear-powered icebreakers are under construction, among them the first Lider-class ship.

The “Lider” on display. (Atle Staalesen/The Independent Barents Observer)

The 80 million tons target for the Northern Sea Route was set by Vladimir Putin in his so-called May Decrees in 2018.

Russian state officials have since struggled to find ways to meet the ambitious goal.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev, a fleet of five LK60 (project 22220) icebreakers will be in operation by 2026 and by 2027 – the first Lider will sail in the Arctic waters. In a government meeting in early October this year, Trutnev outlined the planned construction of as many as 30 new tankers, 30 bulk carriers and 22 container ships for Arctic shipping.

Year-round shipping on the route will start already in 2023-2024, he explained.

Yuri Trutnev is Chair of the Russian Arctic Commission and a leading state official on Arctic developments.

There are several major industrial project currently under development along Russia’s Arctic coast, among them the Arctic LNG 2, the Syradasaysky coal project and Rosneft’s Vostok Oil. They will all contribute with an explosive growth in shipping, the latter reportedly with as much as 30 million tons of oil already in 2024.

Time might be running too quickly for the developers to meet Putin’s desired 80 million tons in 2024. But the huge growth is in any case in the pipeline.

Already by 2030, shipments on the route are planned to rocket to 150 million tons.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada:  44 per cent increase in unique ships entering Canada’s Northwest Passage, says report, Eye on the Arctic

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

Norway: Shipping, climate & business opportunities in the North: Q&A with the Arctic Economic Council, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: North Russian regions want extension of Arctic shipping route, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Northern Sweden expects population boom from green investments, Radio Sweden

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

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