Perspective Research. Volume 1 – 1993 Project Work

(By Viktor Zakharov, A. Baskin, S. Samonenko ; INSROP Working Paper No. 29 – 1996, I.7.1)


Part I: Ice Forecasting and Climate in the Arctic: Critical Review

Navigation in the Arctic continues to be heavily dependent upon variable natural conditions. And although the technical achievements of the last decades have reduced this dependence, to estimate and take into account the environmental state remains an important integral part of the practical implementation of marine transport operations. As for the planning, design and maintenance of long-term engineering structures, including ships for various purposes, they are simply impossible in the absence of knowledge of the existing and expected natural conditions. The most significant environmental factor, the changes that produce the strongest effect on the navigation conditions along the NSR, is sea ice.

Estimates of the future climate and ice state in the Arctic are particularly important due to an increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In the opinion of some climatologists, this increase will be accompanied by an acute surface temperature rise and a significant improvement in the ice situation of the Arctic Seas. The goal of the first stage of Project 1.7.1 was to investigate the current state of forecasting the forthcoming changes in climate and ice conditions, based upon taking into account the factors of a natural and an anthropogenic nature.

It is shown that the problem of forecasting climate and ice conditions is currently its high degree of uncertainty. This is mainly attributed to the unclear ratio of natural and anthropogenic components of climate change that persists, and will continue to do so for some time to come. As there is still no clear evidence of the effect of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases on climate and the state of the Arctic ice, it is yet too early to take them into account for purposes of forecasting forthcoming changes in natural conditions in the Arctic. It is hardly advisable to make decisions that will have great practical consequences taking into account the carbon dioxide factor before clarifying its actual role in climate change. Forecasting of future climate, ice state and navigational conditions along the NSR should be based on taking into consideration those factors of natural origin that caused their changes in the past. Study of the typical features of the development of climatic and ice conditions on the basis of retrospective data with the aim in view of using them for forecasting their future state remains the chief objective of the second stage of Project 1.7.1.

Part II: Electronic Navigational Technology

The prospects for international navigation in the Arctic as well as the possibility of sailing the NSR with a minimum of time and resource loss would be heavily dependent upon the navigation technology employed.

If the points of the easiest ice navigation route were fixed with a high degree of accuracy (down to tens of metres), and transmitted to the icebreakers and vessels, and given that the vessels were able to negotiate the route with the same degree of accuracy, then the prospects for international shipping in the Arctic would be tremendously improved.

The components of the new navigation technology are well known. These are the second generation satellite positioning systems - the American GPS NAVSTAR and the Russian GLONASS, both providing accuracy of positioning up to 30 - 40 metres, indication of head up to 3 - 5 degrees, velocity made good up to 0.1 - 1 knots, all with data update every second. These are radar-based devices with few limitations, providing automatic detection and autotracking of objects, as well as detection of passes between surface obstacles, with updating of data at intervals of 3 - 5 seconds. These are the electronic charts that provide routing, navigational and radar-tracking information, vessels tracks being data integrated for navigator decisionmaking on the videoplotter display. However, as of today the main components of electronic navigation technology have not advanced beyond the stage of experimental operation.

Therefore the framework of INSROP project 1.7.1 includes trial research of various models of modern navigational equipment in conditions of real routine operation. In 1993 plans were made to accomplish the preliminary analysis and systematization of existing information on the problem.

The 1993 report includes the results of work on systematization of recent scientific and practical achievements in the area of navigation technologies. The results of our trials of recent models of the brand name GPS satellite receivers are also presented.

We are continuing these trials. A large number of tests of electronic charts have already been executed, and the legal provision of their usage on vessels has been worked out. The trials of differential subsystem GPS NAVSTAR have been carried out. In the 1994-5 ice navigation season tests of this equipment promising for sailing in ice channels have been planned using pilot vessels in the approaches to St Petersburg marine port. The results of these tests will be presented in the 1995 report.

It is strongly believed that the development of new electronic navigation technology will pave the way to a more advanced level providing improved possibilities of solving the NSR navigation problems.


    Viktor Zakharov, A. Baskin, S. Samonenko, 1996, Perspective Research. Volume 1 – 1993 Project Work, INSROP.©