The sustainable development of the Northern Sea Route, as well as its future prospects and the needs of Russian companies in terms of icebreaking vessels, were all topics of discussion for participants in the “Northern Sea Route: Outcomes and Plans” session held at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum as part of the Russian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021–2023 and organized by the Roscongress Foundation.
“The Northern Sea Route is, first and foremost, a route to Asian markets, and a part of global logistics. It is 7000 miles from Murmansk to Shanghai, and 12,500 miles from Shanghai to Murmansk via Gibraltar and the Suez Canal. Our partners are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of ensuring the safety, performance and sustainability of the Northern Sea Route. This is a new route for global logistics and a transport corridor of the future. But it also has its drawbacks – ice and the time it takes to navigate the route. But we have learned how to maneuver through the ice safely and efficiently,” said Special Representative for the Development of the Arctic at State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom Vladimir Panov.
According to Vladimir Panov, experts are working with all shipping companies and have managed to improve the forecasting of ice conditions – all shipments are meticulously planned out and implemented with icebreaking support. However, he stressed that the most important tasks right now are to provide the necessary cadres and commission new icebreakers.
First Deputy Minister of the Russian Federation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic Gadzhimagomed Guseynov noted that changes are taking place in the organization of global logistics, and that it would be impossible to have all freight between Asia and Europe travel through traditional logistics routes. He also mentioned that 75% of Russia’s combustible gas reserves are located in the Arctic, and the Northern Sea Route is a transport artery that will allow goods to be exported from the territories of the Russian Far North.
“What we need is to create and develop the necessary infrastructure, including on the Arctic coast, which, along with the development of the territories of Siberia and the Russian Far East, will allow us to use shipping lanes on the Northern Sea Route. We are talking inland waterways, port infrastructure and fleet here. We have already placed an order for a large number of ships, which will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the industry. And our work continues,” Gadzhimagomed Guseynov noted.
Sakiko Hataya, a research fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation’s Ocean Policy Research Institute, emphasized the importance of developing the Northern Sea Route following the 2021 container ship accident in the Suez Canal, which rendered the route temporarily inaccessible for use.
“It will likely be possible to use the Northern Sea Route year-round, the technology is available. This is why more and more countries are considering this route as an alternative for shipping their goods. Hokkaido in Japan could serve as a traffic terminal. The Northern Sea Route represents an opportunity for diversification. An economic assessment of the route is needed, as are further research and new regulatory measures from the international community in order for the route to operate more stably,” Sakiko Hataya stated.
Other participants in the discussion included Vice President for Federal and Regional Programs at Norilsk Nickel Andrey Grachev, Deputy Chairman of the NOVATEK Management Board Eduard Gudkov, Director of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute Alexander Makarov, Chairman of the Management Board and Chief Executive Officer of Sovcomflot Igor Tonkovidov, and General Director of GDK Baimskaya Georgy Fotin.
The “Northern Sea Route: Outcomes and Plans” session was held at the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic’s “Arctic: Territory of Dialogue” stand, one of approximately 15 events on its business programme, some of which are included in the plan for Russia’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council. Among these are the discussions “Protecting and Monitoring Arctic Biodiversity,” “The Russian Arctic – Focal Point. Protected areas in the 21st Century,” and “Filmmaking in the Arctic: A Dialogue Between Nature and Technology.”