The Northern Sea Route and the Rivers Ob-Irtysh and Yenisey

(By Trond Ragnvald Ramsland ; INSROP Working Paper No. 44 – 1996, III.01.3)


The general economic decline in Russia is reflected in the current situation on the rivers Ob-Irtysh and Yenisey. Falling volumes, lack of capital, rising unemployment and regional disputes are dominant features. However, the infrastructure on the rivers is in a moderate to good condition. Transport capacity is abundant, even after a shift of both the modern and vintage self-propelled fleet out of the rivers to the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, Black Sea and the Far East. The river shipping companies are keen and interested in seeking new solutions to generate cash flow. The above-mentioned shift operation area indicate that the management is adaptable to the changes in the economy. In terms of the relative cost picture and the expected increase in activity in the oil & gas sector in Northwest Russia, the rivers and northern ports are competitive compared to railway transport, if a reasonable match between inbound and outbound cargoes can be found.

For outbound cargoes, timber and metals from the Yenisey basin through Dudinka are the most likely cargoes. Timber and coal from Ob-Irtysh are also potential cargoes. Barter solutions like aluminium oxide and anode mass to the aluminium plant in Krasnoyarsk which require special handling, with return cargo of aluminium should be evaluated. Railway tarrifs for specialised cargoes are high as there is a shortage of closed railwagons.

Import cargoes, steel pipes, production equipment and supplies to both western and Russian companies in the Timan Pechora region and the Ob-Irtysh basin could be an essential element. This is subject to a separate study by the MAI Consultants (INSROP project III.07.5: Seagoing logistic solutions to oil field material supplies), which estimates the potential amount of cargo to about 165.000 tonnes per year. Much of this cargo will be of akward size and shape, and unsuited for transport by rail. The region is also dependent on the import of consumer goods. In the summer period the Northern Shipping Company brings in about 1.500 containers to Dudinka. This type of trade has development potential.


    Trond R. Ramsland, 1996, The Northern Sea Route and the Rivers Ob-Irtysh and Yenisey, INSROP.©