Northern sea route cargo shipments on the rise
This year the cargo transportation of the Northern Sea Route (NSR), a shipping lane from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean along the Russian Arctic coast, is expected to reach 3 million tons, which is a record volume since the late 1980’s, Andrei Smirnov, an official with the parent navigation company Rosatomflot said.
In the late 1980’s the cargo transportation volume on NSR amounted to 7 million tons. However, in the 1990’s it declined almost five times down to 1.5 billion tons. Later the growth resumed and in 2010 the volume of cargo transportation reached 2.3 billion tons. The leap is explained by a number of factors, Smirnov says.
"Though the Northern sea route was open for foreign ships navigation 20 years ago, only in 2009 foreign ship-owners got interested in this route. Three foreign ships used the route and last year transit along the route already reached 100,000 tons. This year a Russian icebreaker has convoyed the Affinity tanker. It is likely that two-three more ships will sail the NSR this year. Many foreign shipping companies are interested in the transportation of cargos to Asia by tankers and bulk cargo ships. These are shipments of iron-ore from the Kola Peninsula and shipments of coal from Norway’s Kirkenes."
The growing interest in the NSR is understandable. It is shorter by 1/3 than the traditional route via the Gulf of Suez. Experts forecast that the warming in northern latitudes of the Arctic region will continue for 10 years at least if not longer. Today the NSR has become suitable for the navigation of ships with large displacement, which attracts Norwegian and Dutch companies, Smirnov says.
"Now we are in talks with Japan and South Korea which also got interested in our work. Next year we hope to double the volume of cargo shipments along the NSR in comparison with this year."
After 2015 the traffic performance of the NSR will significantly increase following the beginning of the development of oil and gas fields on the Yamal peninsula (Western Siberia).
The Sabbetta port will be built on the Gulf of Ob for supertankers-gas carriers. Russian specialists in cooperation with their Finnish colleagues are conducting verification tests on the site. Also a facility for production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) will be built. It will comprise several units each with the production capacity of 5 million tons. All in all the Northern Sea Route has good prospects.