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Modes of Arctic Marine Transport

(from AMSA Report 2009)


Four modes or types of voyages undertaken in the Arctic Ocean are identified. They are:

Destinational transport, where a ship sails to the Arctic, performs some activity in the Arctic and sails south. Examples include: large cruise ships sailing from southern ports to the west coast of Greenland in summer; LNG and oil tankers sailing from ports in northern Norway and northwest Russia to world markets; and an icebreaker from Europe conducting scientific operations in the central Arctic Ocean in summer.

Intra-Arctic transport, a voyage or marine activity that stays within the general Arctic region and links two or more Arctic states. A key example is the marine route between the port of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada on Hudson Bay and Murmansk, Russia, touted as an “Arctic-bridge” between the two continents. Two other examples include an Icelandic fishing vessel working in Greenlandic waters, and tug-barge traffic operating between Canada’s Northwest Territories and the U.S. Beaufort Sea off the Alaskan coast.

Trans-Arctic transport or navigation, voyages which are taken across the Arctic Ocean from Pacific to Atlantic oceans or vice versa. These are full voyages between the major oceans using the Arctic Ocean as a marine link. There are several options for trans-Arctic navigation: directly across the central Arctic Ocean (for example, from the Bering Strait to Fram Strait); using Russia’s Northern Sea Route from the Barents Sea (Kara Gate) to the Bering Strait (for example, from European ports to ports of southeastern Asia); and through the Northwest Passage, which spans the Canadian Archipelago from Baffin Bay to the Bering Strait.

Cabotage, to trade or marine transport in coastal waters between ports within an Arctic state. A prime example is the year-round traffic between the port of Dudinka on the Yenisei River and Murmansk - Russian-flag ships carrying nickel plates processed at the industrial complex in Norilsk to Murmansk for further distribution to Russian and international markets. Other examples are the summer sealift of cargoes to Canadian Arctic communities from southern Canadian ports and the delivery of consumer goods to Russian Arctic communities using the Northern Sea Route.


  •  1. Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment Report 2009

Arctic Council, 2009, Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA), Arctic Council.©

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