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Northern Sea Route - main line

The global warming, the melted ice that fettered the Northern Sea Route (SMP), gives Russia a unique chance to create along its northern coasts a sea transport corridor linking Europe and Asia.

Northern Sea Route - main line

Will the domestic federal and regional authorities build the necessary infrastructure to service this international route for its successful operation? If Russia is able to attract domestic and foreign investors to solve this task, then we can hope for success.

Russia grows in the Northern Sea Route

The solution to the urgent problem of the development of the regions of Siberia and the Far East of the country, which is on the agenda of the Russian government, for a number of objective and subjective reasons faces great difficulties, including due to a lack of budgetary funds. So, according to the Minister of Regional Development of Russia Igor Slyunyaev, announced in January 2014, the program for the development of the Far East does not have enough money: “Now the real financing of the program will amount to 244 billion rubles, that is, less than 10% of the need. We need to find 3,5 trillion rubles to ensure accelerated development in the formation of the budget for the next financial periods. " In addition to the slow growth of domestic GDP, as well as the expected deterioration of the financial and economic situation in Russia due to confrontation with a number of Western countries due to events related to Crimea and Ukraine, attracting foreign investment in the regions of Siberia and the Far East of Russia is hampered by the lack of clearly formulated proposals, interesting large investors.

One of such proposals from Russia, capable of attracting investors primarily from the countries of Europe and Northeast Asia, could be a megaproject for the joint development and development of the Northern Sea Route (NSR, stretching from Cape Zhelaniy to Cape Dezhnev), aimed at providing sea carriers shorter than the southern corridor through the Suez Canal, and an economically viable transport corridor connecting Europe and Asia, most of which runs along Russian territory, and in fact - from Murmansk to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. It is also obvious that the development of the NSR is extremely important for the transportation of goods between regions of Russia.

At present, Russia is trying to solve the problem of creating such a sea corridor as the NSR. Thus, 15 March 2013, the Russian Federation Government Order No. 358-r established the federal state institution "Administration of the Northern Sea Route" (AIPS, operates under the Federal Agency of Sea and River Transport of the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation), and 12 April 2013, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation registered the Rules Navigation in the waters of the Northern Sea Route approved by the order of the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation from 17 January 2013 No. 7.

The head office of the AIPS is located in Moscow far from the object of its regulation, but in June 2013 of the year in Arkhangelsk a branch of the AIPS was opened in the building of the Northern Shipping Company. For Arkhangelsk, the opening of this branch became a significant event, as recognition of the role that Arkhangelsk played and plays in the development of the Arctic.

At the same time, the head of the AIPS, Alexander Olshevsky, who earlier served as captain of nuclear icebreakers, notes a number of serious shortcomings in the current Rules of Navigation in the waters of the Northern Sea Route. So, in his opinion, the criteria for admission of vessels to the NSR, prescribed in the Rules, require a serious professional revision. In particular, it seems incorrect on the basis of the forecast of background ice conditions for the area covering half of the sea, to make a decision on the possibility of sailing the vessel on a specific route and on the necessary icebreaker support for this. There is no mechanism for accountability for violation of the Rules. According to Olshevsky, it is advisable for courts-violators to apply such measures as refusal to issue permits for navigation on the NSR in the future.

He notes that the termination of the Agreement between Rosatom and Rosmorrechflot resulted in the liquidation of the headquarters of maritime operations in the structure of the icebreaker operator, the body that carried out the most important functions of shipping management in the NSR. No new procedures for interaction with the operator of the nuclear icebreaker fleet have been developed in place of the canceled ones. In this regard, it seems reasonable to establish procedures for interaction between AIPS and operators of the icebreaking fleet, Olshevsky believes. It seems that the efforts of the Russian leadership to develop the SME are not sufficient not only from the position of forming a qualitative legislative base, but even from the point of view of attracting domestic investors. We can state that now in Russia there is neither a business plan for the development of SPM, nor proposals for investors, nor a structure that coordinates the work on the project and is able to professionally answer questions from potential investors, nor a campaign to position this project as strategic and international. It seems that there is no such transport and logistics project in Russia.

There is no megaproject, but work is on

The positive news is that a number of Russian companies have started the development of the NSR for both domestic and international freight traffic. Among recent achievements, we can note the transfer to 2010 of the Baltika tanker (SCF Baltica) with the carrying capacity of 100 thousand tons from Murmansk to the port of Ningbo (China) with a cargo of gas condensate. Flight of the tanker "Baltika" of the company Sovcomflot in the NSR was the first in the history of Russia, since previously large-capacity ocean-going tankers on this route were not conducted.

For the first time in the history of shipping in the 2011, the FSUE “Atomflot” conducted a supertanker “Vladimir Tikhonov” with 162 deadweight 000 tons of gas loaded with gas condensate. He became the largest tanker ever navigated the Arctic routes. In 2011, the largest Japanese bulk carrier Sanko Odyssey (deadweight - 75 600 tons) with a load of iron ore concentrate proceeded along the SMP. In the 2011 year, for the first time from the Far East to St. Petersburg, a transport refrigerator "Communards of Nikolayev" with a load of fish passed. In 2012, the tanker SCF Amur for the first time carried out transportation of petroleum products of JSC Gazprom Neft by a new high-latitude route SMP.

From the point of view of SMP use for deliveries of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the countries of the Asia-Pacific region and to the European market, the world's first LNG transportation for the NSR was the decisive experiment: in December 2012, the Ob River tanker, , Chartered by the Gazprom group, successfully completed the world's first transportation of Russian LNG via the NSR, which in practice opened the possibility of delivering Russian LNG to the countries of the Asia-Pacific region and to the European market.

The tanker arrived at the regasification terminal in the port of Tobat (Japan), leaving 7 on November 2012 from the port of Hammerfest (Norway), and delivered a consignment of Gazprom LNG to Japanese consumers. During the transition from the SMP from 9 to 18 in November, the vessel was accompanied by nuclear-powered icebreakers of the FSUE “Atomflot”, led by two ice pilots. The flight was completed without any trouble and in full accordance with the schedule. The success of the flight was ensured by the professionalism of the crew of the Ob River tanker and the high-quality support of ice pilots, captains and crews of the 50 Let Pobedy, Russia and Vaigach icebreakers and the coastal personnel of the FSUE Atomflot and AIPS.

According to Gazprom, the first-class icebreaking and wiring of vessels, the reduction in the delivery time, fuel savings, the reduction of losses from the evaporation of LNG, the increase in the volume of delivered gas, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions into the environment and the absence of conflict risks and pirates' attack on the transition - All this in general is a very attractive and reliable solution for interregional trade of LNG, taking into account the implementation of Russian Arctic projects for liquefying gas.

Atomic fleet

A huge role in the operation of the Northern Sea Route is played and should be played by the Russian nuclear icebreaking fleet. In Russia, vessels with a nuclear power plant and vessels for nuclear technological maintenance belong to Atomflot, which entered into the State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom in 2008. The active fleet includes four nuclear icebreakers with a two-reactor nuclear power plant with an output of 75 thousand liters. from. - "Russia" (1985 year of construction), "Soviet Union" (1989 years), "Yamal" (1992 years), "50 Victory Years" (2007 year), icebreakers "Taimyr" (1988 years) and "Vaigach" ( 1990 year) with a single-reactor installation with an output of 40 thousand liters. S., As well as the nuclear lighter-container ship Sevmorput (1988) with a reactor installation of a similar capacity. The service life of the icebreakers "Taimyr" and "Vaigach" ends in 2017 year, and by 2021 in connection with the development of the resource and the end of service life, it is expected that only one nuclear icebreaker will remain - "50 Victory Years". One of the main activities of Atomflot is icebreaker support for wiring of ships along the routes of the Northern Sea Route.

However, the actively conducting arctic studies of the People's Republic of China creates its own icebreaking fleet, which in the future is able to compete with domestic icebreakers. In August 2012, the Chinese ship Xuelong ("Xuelong" - "Snow Dragon", purchased from Ukraine in 1993 year) passed from Chukotka to the Barents Sea, then collapsed into the Norwegian Sea. So the first pass of the Chinese ship on the NSR took place.

In its plans, the PRC states that by the year of 2020, every sixth ton of national exports will be sent via the NSR, and these shipments will be provided by Chinese, not Russian icebreakers, so it must be prepared for the fact that the competition of fleets of different countries on the NSR can become a reality In the medium term.

Problems and Risks

Despite the obvious international prospects for Russia’s development of the NSR, there are many “pitfalls” that can cloud the optimistic expectations of the benefits from the NSR.

For example, in Russia, the positions of those who consider the NSR to be exclusively the “national highway of Russia” are strong. It ignores the fact that the universal international legal regime established, in particular, by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of ​​1982, extends to the maritime areas of the Arctic in full. In accordance with this regime, the free passage of foreign ships should be ensured for a considerable length of the NSR. It would be naive to believe that it is enough for Russia to collect tariffs for the passage of foreign ships on the NSR, as is done, for example, by the administration of the Suez Canal, to sell icebreaker escort services and to wait for Russian ships with money tourists to call at Russian ports.

A key issue in the development of SMPs continues to be investment in infrastructure, which is necessary, in particular, to update the port facilities. This is the modernization and opening of the Arctic ports, the creation of new port transport and logistics complexes, freight terminals, communication centers, in particular the development of a large logistics and port complex in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. It is required to solve the problems of modernizing the hydrometeorological, hydrographic, navigational security of navigation, updating cartographic information, improving global positioning systems. Obviously, only federal and regional budgets are not enough to solve this task. At the same time, Russian experience shows that attracting foreign investors is becoming increasingly problematic. The optimistic expectations of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation regarding the arrival of investors only because the SMP is a promising project can break down the reluctance of foreign businesses to invest in the country with increasing political risks. This trend needs to be changed.


The Northern Sea Route, which in Russia has a long and adventurous history of discovery and development, is today one of the key potentially attractive international economic projects. The successful implementation of this project in the context of large-scale international cooperation could not only reduce political tensions between the Arctic countries, improve Russia's relations with states that will use SMPs to solve their trade and economic problems, but also give a powerful impetus to the development of Russian regions that have the appropriate infrastructure For quality service of sea transport and even provision of tourist services. This chance would be a sin not to use.

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