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New prospects of the Northern Sea Route

Global warming benefits northern regions

New prospects of the Northern Sea Route

Global warming has opened up new opportunities for the Arctic region and the Northern Sea Route (NSR): the ice retreats, freeing up more and more opportunities for navigation. Whether Russia will receive its dividends from the use of the route and from the transit of foreign vessels depends on how ready the SMP infrastructure is. In any case, now it is far from in the best condition.

Trails are strategic rivals

The Hamburg-Yokohama reference route naturally defines alternative transport routes, which are potential competitors: a NNMX of sea miles, navigating the seas of the Arctic Ocean (Barents, Kara, Laptev, East Siberian, Chukchi) and partly the Pacific (Beringovo), And the path passing through the Suez Canal, 6600 11 nautical miles in length, exceeding the NSR by 400%.

It is obvious that the main advantage of the NSR over the route through the Suez Canal is in the shorter transport leg. The NSR is also supported by the absence of threats from sea pirates. However, the NSR has two serious problems - heavy ice conditions and extensive shoals. And if the first problem can be solved by accompanying caravans of ships with icebreakers, then the second imposes serious restrictions on the navigation of modern supertankers along the NSR. According to media reports, when in the summer of 2010 the first "heavyweight" tanker, the one-hundred thousandth tanker Baltika, loaded with stable gas condensate, set off along the NSR, in some parts of the route the depth from the keel to the ocean floor was only XNUMX meters. To pass small sections the team had to wait with the weather conditions and "be careful", moving forward at a slow speed.

According to Rosgidromet, a rapid increase in winter temperatures after 1990 year with a maximum in 2010 and a rise in summer temperatures after 1996, with a maximum in 2007, was recorded in the area of ​​the Arctic Arctic, which includes ice-covered during the winter period. According to the National Snow and Ice Information Center (NSIDC), the decrease in sea-ice area observed since the beginning of 1980 accelerated sharply at the end of 1990; sea ​​ice area has reached the absolute minimum 5,30 million square meters. km in September 2007, but then increased to 5,90 million square meters. km in September 2010 of the year. In the Siberian Arctic seas (Kara, Laptev, East Siberian and Chukotka), the sea-ice area after the 1998 year and before the 2005 year decreased even more rapidly, although there was no reduction in the following years.

In March 2011, NASA scientists, relying on satellite monitoring data, said that perennial Arctic sea ice melts faster than annual icebergs, not having time to grow over the shorter ice-making season. According to their data, since 1980, the area of ​​annual ice is declining at a rate of 15,1% per decade, and perennial - 17,2% for the same period. A professor at the University of Cambridge, Peter Vadams, is sure that the perennial ice in the Arctic will completely disappear in the next 20 years, and the polar water area in the summer can be crossed without icebreakers. "Very soon it will be necessary to perceive the Arctic Ocean as a seasonally ice-free sea ... Mankind has removed the ice cover from the northern part of the planet and we can not put it back," he sums up.

Zone of interests of Russia

In Russia, MSP is perceived as a historically established national unified transport communication in the Arctic. Indeed, the discovery of the NSR has a centuries-old background. In the early stages of the colonization of Siberia, on some of the western sections of this route, there were kochi of Novgorodians, and later - pomors. These pioneers in the extreme climatic conditions of the North made long voyages on fragile ships. In the 11th century, Russian navigators reached the seas of the Arctic Ocean, in the 12th and 13th centuries discovered the islands of Vaigach, Novaya Zemlya, and at the end of the 15th century - the islands of the Spitsbergen archipelago, Bear Island. In XVI-XVII centuries, the site of the Northern Sea Diver was actively developed - from the Northern Dvina to the Taz Bay at the mouth of the Ob River.

It is generally believed that the first idea of ​​using the Northeast Passage (until the beginning of the 20th century was called the Northern Sea Route) for the maritime communication between Russia and China was expressed in 1525 by the Russian diplomat Dmitry Gerasimov. In the second half of the 15th century, English and Dutch navigators tried repeatedly to cross the NSR to the East. In England, the Society of Entrepreneurs was created to open countries, lands, islands, states and possessions that were unknown and even hitherto (northern) by sea, not visited, at the expense of which a number of expeditions were conducted in the basin of the Arctic Ocean. One of the main goals of the expeditions is the opening of a new trade route to China. Three times in this direction in 1594-1596 the Dutch navigator Willem Barents was hiking. His ships futilely tried to go further to the East, skirting the New Earth from the north and south. In the third voyage, Barents circled Cape Desire, but was forced to winter in Ice Harbor. In the spring of 1597, returning to the mainland, Barents died.

At the end of the XVI century Russian sailors began to make regular voyages to the mouth of the Ob River, from where they later penetrated the Yenisei basin. Semyon Dezhnev and Fedot Popov, having gone to 1648 for a fishing trip on small cots, were the first in the world to prove the existence of the strait between Asia and America, described in detail Chukotka, founded the Anadyr jail.

In the XVIII century the most significant contribution to the scientific research of the NSR was made by the Second Kamchatka expedition headed by Vitus Bering. For 10 years, it has passed through separate sections of almost the entire SMP from Arkhangelsk in the west to Cape Bolshoy Baranov in the east. In 1742, Semyon Chelyuskin reached the northern tip of the Asian mainland, the cape, to which the Russian Geographical Society was named in the year 1842. Khariton Laptev explored the coast from the Lena River to the Khatanga River and the Taimyr Peninsula, mapped the Khatanga Bay, the Pyasina River and Khatanga, discovered the islands of Bolshaya and Maly Begicheva and the central part of the Byrranga Mountains. The detachment, which was heading from Yakutsk to the Bering Strait, explored the coast of the Arctic Ocean between the Lena River and the Cape of the Great Barans, surveyed the rivers of Yana, Indigirka, Chroma, Kolyma, Bolshaya Anyui and Anadyr. The detachment, led by Martyn Shpanberg, explored the Kurile Islands and opened the sea route to Japan.

Based on the results of the first northern expeditions, M.V. Lomonosov put forward and substantiated the idea of ​​the need for a comprehensive study of the polar seas and countries for the development of merchant shipping and ensuring the safety of Russian possessions in the Far East. It is to him that the words that have become historical belong: “Russian power will grow through Siberia and the Northern Ocean. By the way, the Northern Ocean is a vast field where Russian glory, coupled with unparalleled benefit, can be aggravated through the invention of East-North navigation. ”

From discovery to exploration and exploitation

The opening and development of the SMP in many ways was due to the trade and economic interests of Russia associated with hard-to-reach areas of the Far North and the Far East. And to this day, for example, with the help of sea transportation on the Northern Sea Route, the problem of "northern delivery" and development of natural resources of the respective territories is being solved. In turn, the conquest of the ice expanses of the Northern Sea Fleet initiated the development of port facilities, navigation devices, icebreaker fleet, including the nuclear fleet.

Ever since 1877, the Kara expeditions were periodically carried out to export the Siberian agricultural products and mineral wealth to the world market of Siberian agricultural products through the Kara Sea. Until 1919, 122 Kara flights only 75 passed successfully. Total 55 thousand tons of various cargoes were transported. In 1899, at the initiative of Admiral S.O. Makarov in England built the world's first powerful icebreaker "Yermak", which was supposed to be used for regular communication with Ob and Yenisei across the Kara Sea.

The first proof of the possibility of the transit use of the NSR was an expedition that was held in 1878-1879 on the Vega schooner under the guidance of the outstanding Swedish scientist Niels Nordenskiold. During this expedition, for the first time, a through voyage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific was carried out with one wintering trip.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the development of the NSR became one of the most urgent tasks of the Russian economy. The development of agriculture in Siberia, connected with the mass migration of peasants to its territory, required the search for new routes for the export of Siberian bread to world markets.

In 1909, icebreaker steamers "Taimyr" and "Vaigach" were built at the Nevsky Shipyard for systematic research of the Northern Sea Route. In 1914, an expedition was sent to these icebreakers, the tasks of which included the passage of the NSR into one navigation. During the expedition this task was not solved. In October 1914, skirting Cape Chelyuskin, the steamships encountered impassable ice that forced the expedition members to stay in the drift for the winter. Only in September 1915, having overcome the great difficulties associated with navigation through an unknown channel, the icebreakers reached Arkhangelsk, making a through navigation in two navigations.

In 1932, under the guidance of O. Yu. Schmidt and Captain V.I. Voronin on the steamer "Sibiryakov" for the first time an expedition was carried out, during which the route of the NSR was taken during one navigation.

The Soviet Union became the first and only country to actively use drifting polar stations. By the beginning of the Great Patriotic War in the USSR, considerable experience was gained in sailing of transport ships in the Arctic, and the main ports of the Northern Sea Route, such as Dikson, Igarka, Dudinka, Tiksi, Pevek and Providence, were equipped. In addition to the tasks for supplying Arctic construction projects and polar stations that existed in 1930, during the war years it became necessary to supply garrisons and warships deployed in the Arctic, as well as to deliver goods from the United States and Canada.

Until now, nuclear icebreakers of the Arktika class, the basis of the Russian nuclear icebreaking fleet, have been used to escort cargo and other vessels along the Northern Sea Route. All 10 existing in the world of nuclear icebreakers were designed, built and launched in the USSR and Russia.

From disappointments to new hopes

The collapse of the Soviet Union had a detrimental effect on the state of the NSR. Due to the elimination of centralized material and technical supply, the system of import of industrial and food products to the North from other regions of Russia was destroyed. The liberalization of prices and the "reformatting" of the credit system led to a heavy financial situation for the majority of enterprises that made up the infrastructure of the NSR. Not surprisingly, there was a decline in the volume of cargo transportation by the NSR from 6,6 million tons in 1987 to 1,5 million tons in 1998.

In 2010, the total volume of cargo turnover on the NSR was only 1,8 million tons. But in 2011 year, according to the Murmansk Shipping Company, a record 1987 million tons of cargo was achieved after 3,3. In addition, in 5,5 times the number of goods transported by transit through the NSR increased. With the existing composition of the current nuclear icebreaking fleet (six units), the capacity of the NSR capacity is used at about 30%. It should be noted that the potential of the cargo traffic on the NSR is estimated at 50 million tons per year.

Global warming gave Russia a chance to turn the NSR not only into a safer sea route for domestic use, but also into a transit route for the passage of foreign ships, which had not previously been too attracted by the ice difficulties of this route. The SMP is also of interest to foreign companies as a transportation artery for the transportation of mineral raw materials from the Arctic regions of Russia, and the transportation of Russian hydrocarbons through the SMP may be more profitable than the construction of gas and oil pipelines on land. Not without reason the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, including China and Japan, show a high interest in the possibility of using the NSR for their own purposes. And if China has already sent its own scientific expeditions to the North Pole, Japan basically conducts active reconnaissance from space and from the air. Weathernews, a private meteorological company operating in Tokyo, uses an American satellite and airplanes chartered in Canada to constantly monitor the condition of Arctic waters, where free passes from Japan to Europe and to the east coast of the United States are increasingly distinct due to increasing ice melting. Note that if the distance traveled by ships from the port of Murmansk to the port of Yokohama (Japan) through the Suez Canal is 12 840 nautical miles, the NSR is 5770 nautical miles, that is, 55% shorter.

Unfortunately, in general, the situation around the Arctic is exacerbated by tensions between the Arctic countries, which are striving to divide the Arctic "pie" in their own interests. It seems that, in 2007, an unnecessarily noisy action to demonstrate the flag of Russia on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, conducted on the eve of the elections to the State Duma, was seen as an escalation of tension. The courage and professionalism of the operators of the two Mir bathyscaphe that ensured the successful immersion of vehicles with passengers in the North Pole region aroused admiration among many people, but it provoked the expected response to this event by politicians from other countries, and especially the priarctic ones, who saw in the pictures The Russian side a threat to their national interests.

Will SMP become a breakthrough for Russia?

Importance and prospects of the NSR not only for domestic transportation, but also as an international route is fully understood by the country's leadership. Thus, in greeting the participants of the International Conference "Northern Sea Route to Strategic Stability and Equitable Partnership in the Arctic", which was held in August 2011, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev noted that "the rich reserves of minerals are concentrated in the Arctic, the shortest navigable route passes through it, Connecting the Europe and Asia - the Northern Sea Route. Therefore, the stable and stable development of the region - on the basis of cooperation and unconditional respect for international law - is of exceptional importance. "

The task of developing the SMP is seen as extremely urgent for Russia, and its successful solution can become the locomotive of the development of the region. But for this Russia needs to take a number of serious and costly measures. In particular, the issues related to the renewal of port facilities are acute: modernization and opening of the Arctic ports of Dixon, Khatanga, Tiksi, Pevek, Provideniya, creation of new port transport and logistics complexes, freight terminals, communication centers. It is required to solve the problems of modernizing the hydrometeorological, hydrographic, navigational security of navigation, updating cartographic information, improving global positioning systems.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev at the International Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Arctic: New Frontiers, held on 12 on April 2012, in Murmansk, noted that the traffic volume on the NSR increased by 2011% from August and will continue to grow, so provide for security measures in the area. "We see that changes are occurring in the Arctic, and we must understand and see the challenges and threats associated with this ... We must ensure security in the Arctic - we need infrastructure, cooperation of coast guards," he said.

Obviously, the security problems associated with military or terrorist threats, prompt response to emergencies caused by natural disasters and environmental disasters, the creation of rescue services for the NSR are very acute. In order to improve the search and rescue system in the Arctic, the Federal Target Program "Development of the Transport System of Russia (2010-2015 years)" provides for the construction and reconstruction of coastal infrastructure facilities. But it also seems important that Russia, by forming the corresponding services, should find understanding and receive assistance from other countries, since such tasks are not solved alone in the modern world.

International or national?

In the issue of the development of the NSR, there is an important parliamentary component. Currently, the State Duma is considering a bill on state regulation of merchant shipping in the waters of the Northern Sea Route, which has already been adopted in the first reading. The bill caused a lot of criticism, and its discussion revealed a number of fundamental differences.

So, 24 April 2012 year in the Federation Council passed parliamentary hearings on the NSR, where the first deputy chairman of the Federation Council on federal structure, regional policy, local government and affairs of the North Alexander Matveev said that in the expert community the bill caused mixed reactions primarily because "Considers the SMP not as a historically formed national unified transport communication of the Russian Federation, but simply as an aquatorium." In addition, the disputes are caused by the provisions according to which the boundaries of the SMP are provided by a decision of the government, and not by the law itself, as well as the provision on Arctic collection that "will hit Russian carriers and increase the cost of northern imports". In his opinion, it is necessary to clearly state the status of the NSR in the law, as well as the provision on the administration of the NSR.

Undoubtedly, the successful experience of Egypt's exploitation of the Suez Canal, whose revenues in 2010 amounted to $ 4,5 billion, is very attractive in Russia for those who rely on the "nationality" of Russia's SMP. The idea is simple: take from all passing ships payment for passage through the NSR, as is done by the administrations of the Suez and Panama canals. But such a mechanism is hypothetically possible only if the SMP is "privatized" by Russia. In the context of the same approach, the proposal to establish a state corporation for the development of the Arctic sounds.

Among the characteristic statements on this issue, the words of Arthur Chilingarov, representative of the Russian President for international cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctic, he said at the above-mentioned conference "Security and Cooperation in the Arctic": "I insist that the Northern Sea Route is the national highway of Russia. Hence, there are many obligations for those who service the route. This is fundamentally, it is a national transport highway, but there is a misunderstanding. "

Probably, "misunderstanding" is that the universal international legal regime, established in particular by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, fully applies to the marine areas of the Arctic. In accordance with this regime, during a considerable period of the NSR, free passage of foreign vessels should be ensured. Although the routes of the Northern Sea Route, from the point of view of the law of the sea, pass through various sea areas: from inland sea waters to open sea areas.

Probably, it will not be possible to take money from the ships of foreign states passing through the NSR for the fact that this is the "national highway of Russia". The income to the treasury of Russia should be provided by other methods - through the provision of a variety of services. But it is in this sector of the economy that Russia has not yet become competitive, which has been influenced since the days of the "unobtrusive" Soviet service. Thus, in connection with the development of the NSR, Russia faces yet another challenge: to create an efficient and competitive infrastructure for the provision of services related to the passage of foreign ships on the NSR. If Russia can not do this, then its place will probably be taken by Norway and other countries interested in developing their business in this region.

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Will the SMP be a breakthrough project for Russia? If Russia perceives the task of developing the SMP as an important geopolitical transport project, requiring the country not to be populist, but serious and thoughtful steps to modernize the Russian economy and the infrastructure of the SMP, including foreign investors, we can hope for success. But if, under the guise of developing the SMP, all sorts of national-patriotic tasks of an ideological persuasion will be solved, then we will get another campaign to clarify the relationship of who is the “master” in the water area, with a predictable outcome. It appears that the national interests of Russia consist in further integration into the world economy, in which generally accepted legal norms are in force, including those of the Northern Sea Route. 
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