The Arctic is open to all
Developing the Arctic region, providing the security of ships and protecting the environment are tasks that no country of the Arctic region could fulfil alone. Success depends on cooperation and absolute openness of activity. This is the conclusion made by the participants in the international conference ‘New Boundaries of Security and Cooperation in the Arctic’.
The international conference in Murmansk gathered representatives of all the eight countries that have an Arctic coastline. Delegates from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Canada, the US and Russia discussed issues of exploring the Arctic as a trade route and a resource base. They also spoke about problems in protecting state frontiers in the Arctic region and environmental problems that could rise in connection with the development of new shelf deposits. Russian delegates led the discussions.
The topic of joint use of the Northern Sea Route took an important place in the discussions. The Northern Sea Route has long been the main road for the Arctic region of Russia and the basis of the economy in dozens of districts. Passage along this route takes half the time of the alternative way from Europe to Asia through the Suez Canal. It is important that other countries besides Russia should have an opportunity to use this advantage. At present, the State Duma is working on a bill allowing a large number of foreign ships to follow the Northern Sea Route, Deputy Minister of Transport Viktor Olersky said.
“The Northern Sea Route is the shortest transport corridor between Europe and the Asia-Pacific Region. At present, with the development of new large-scale projects in the exploration of mineral resources in the Arctic zone of Russia, the role of the Northern Sea Route in providing the delivery of energy-carriers to international markets cannot be overestimated. According to expert estimations, the potential volume of east-bound transit cargoes along the Northern Sea Route could reach 5-6mln tons and west-bound cargoes 2-3mln tons.”
Announcer: All foreign ships will be thoroughly controlled before getting permission to pass along the Northern Sea Route. Each ship will be provided with a convoy of Russian ice-breakers. The rigging of ships sailing in the Arctic is the chief concern for the US. Responding to the Russian Deputy Minister’s words, the chief of US Coast Guards Carrie Thomas said that the US has begun stricter selection of ships for this purpose.
Special attention was paid at the conference to the principle of openness of all initiatives in the development of the Arctic region. Russia set an example in this respect by offering the delegates the latest results of the Russian Hydrometeorological Centre in scanning the Arctic Ocean area. Before the conference started, the foreign guests were invited to visit one of the frontier posts on Franz Josef Land.