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Alternative route

For the NSR, the future of global maritime logistics and trade

The General Director of the Far East and Baikal Region Development Fund Aleksey Chekunkov told EastRussia why the effect of launching the Northern Sea Route could be comparable in scale with the exploration of outer space.

Alternative route

- Alexey Olegovich, you are participating in the working group of the Ministry of Regional Development, which is engaged in expert and analytical work on the project of the Northern Sea Route. Could you please tell us about the main vectors of discussion on this project? What are the prospects for the development of the Northern Sea Route in general and for the country's logistics industry in particular?

- Recently the theme of development of the Northern Sea Route and development of the Arctic has been actively heard both in Russia and throughout the world. Leading experts in Russia and the Asia-Pacific believe that the SMP is the future of global maritime logistics and trade. Others are concerned that the natural restrictions existing on the NSR can affect the competitiveness of the route compared to more predictable routes. If we evaluate the facts, climate change has led to a reduction in the ice cover in the Arctic Ocean. The development of Arctic territories and water areas for the purpose of organizing the production of hydrocarbons and metals requires the expansion of the possibilities for transporting goods along the Northern Sea Route. There is a practical interest of large sea carriers to the NSR due to the possibility of reducing the transport arm of the delivery of goods from Asia to Europe and vice versa. With efficient management of cargo flows and the availability of icebreakers, the NSR may be more competitive than traditional logistics routes. In addition, the demand for the Northern Sea Route is dictated by the geopolitical situation that is developing in the Asia-Pacific region. In conditions of excessive concentration of sea transportations and world trade flows already exceeding the capacity of the Suez and Panama canals, and against the background of aggravation of territorial disputes in the waters of the Asia-Pacific region, the project of creating a full-fledged alternative route becomes urgent. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the NSR is a kind of spare perspective engine for world maritime trade.

- What related industries will allow to develop this project?

- I would like to draw an analogy with the exploration of outer space. Maybe this is a frighteningly grandiose comparison, but nevertheless - look at how commercialized the use of space technologies today is. And first of all, global positioning technologies. The effect of them for the world economy is expressed in increasing the efficiency of transport and agriculture. It is measured in billions of dollars and exceeds the cost of launching and maintaining the space satellite system. The effect of launching the Northern Sea Route may turn out to be comparable in scale and spread to a wide range of industries - from maritime trade and shipbuilding to high technologies related to the production of, for example, navigation equipment. It should be noted that the Northern Sea Route is already being actively used by Russian companies implementing large-scale projects to develop mineral deposits in the Arctic zone (Norilsk Nickel, Yamal LNG, Gazprom Neft, Rosneft, etc.). Today, more than 70% of cargo on the NSR is hydrocarbon raw materials and petroleum products. Large-scale Arctic oil and gas projects are the first bright positive examples of the organization of work on the NSR, which became a powerful impetus, in particular, for the implementation of the program for the development of the nuclear icebreaking fleet.

- Is international cooperation expected in this project?

- Of course. An essential part of the NSR is in the Far East. The main directions of trade flows are closed on the APR, which is our target region for the export of goods and services produced in the East of Russia. To create a fundamentally new quality on the basis of the Northern Sea Route, it is necessary to create conditions for the development of container transportations and attraction of the largest international shipowners and cargo owners, whose critical factors are linearity, predictability and predictability of the route, and the uninterrupted supply. Recently, in the world, large carriers are increasingly creating operational alliances for the optimal allocation of costs, reducing transport costs. And it is possible that cooperation is one of the formats of interaction between business and the state in the implementation of such a strategic project as the commercialization of the NSR. Potential locomotives of this process are carriers interested in using the Northern Sea Route as an alternative route. In particular, we are already discussing with the major port operators and international maritime carriers the prospects of using SMP for container transportation, transporting fish from the Far East to the European part of Russia, Europe and South-East Asia. However, an integrated approach to the development of the Northern Sea Route presupposes the realization of the potential of this water area not only for transit shipping, but also for the delivery of goods within the country, the integration of the SMP with the Russian economy.

- Can the development of the Northern Sea Route change the balance in the world transport market in the next 3-5 years?

- While the Northern Sea Route is modestly represented on the map of international shipping. In 2014, about 4 million tons of cargo were transported through the NSR. For comparison, 5 660 million tons of cargo was transported through the Strait of Malacca, through the Suez Canal - 882 million tons, through the Panama Canal - 222 million tons. However, if the availability of icebreakers is increased and the effective traffic management system is built, the NSR may be more efficient than existing routes along the Suez Canal. We invite you to think about the Northern Sea Route as a commercial project, which requires a certain critical level of infrastructure. In particular, the route's prospects directly depend on the speed of implementation of the program for the development of the Russian nuclear icebreaking fleet - unfortunately, effective commercial operation of the Northern Sea Route in conditions of icebreaker capacity limitations is hardly possible. And we are already seeing some progress in this direction. Two new nuclear icebreakers have been laid. Soon it is planned to begin construction of the third icebreaker. In addition, a draft sketch of the nuclear-powered icebreaker-leader with an output of 110 megawatt, a width of up to 50 meters, has been developed. It is expected that the icebreakability of this icebreaker (4,5 m) will allow year-round wiring of vessels along the Northern Sea Route. The creation of new ice-class vessels and icebreakers can significantly reduce the cost of transported goods. The expansion of the icebreaking fleet will remove the limitations associated with the unpredictability of the route, as well as find a solution to a number of technical problems of the second and third order associated with pricing, creating a security system, involving operators, marketing. The effectiveness of the NSR as a universal maritime logistics route also depends on the quality of the ground rail infrastructure. To ensure that the chain of cargo delivery is not interrupted, the northern seaports must be connected to the railway network. However, while railway approaches are available only to the ports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk. Therefore, it is extremely important to accelerate projects aimed at developing the transport infrastructure of the Russian North and the Arctic. Such, for example, as the Northern latitudinal move. On the rolled infrastructure can go loads in a volume, a multiple of the one we dream about.

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