Current Use of the Northern Sea Route

(By Yury Ivanov, Anatoly Yakovlev ; INSROP Working Paper No. 96 – 1998, IV 1.1)


The main purpose of the work is to generalize the results of the marine transport operations for servicing those northern regions which gravitate towards the NSR, and to assess the up-to-date state of transition to market system. The changes of the political, social and economic situation in the Russian Federation for the last five years have de-termined changes both in the production sphere and in organisation of economic transportation, including the Russian northernmost regions, the Arctic zone, and the Far East.

Unification of State interests and private interests is the essence of the concept of the Russian transport development. This goal can be achieved only under comparable economic conditions for the cargo supply to the northernmost regions and the Far East of Russia and for foreign trade.

On the way to market economy, Russia takes measures to maintain the NSR as the united national route in the Arctic. The State executes trade-off functions with regard to interests and financial support of the State, stock and private enterprises concerned with the cargo supply to the North. The State will play the leading role in forming regional markets of commodities and transport servies. The structure of the NSR has not changed. It includes transport vessels, icebreakers, ports, aids to navigation and navigational aids (navigational-hydrographic and hydrometeorological equipment, aviation and communication) and navigation management bodies. Transport vessels are owned by stock shipping companies. Liner icebreakers are under federal ownership. Liner icebreakers are rented to the stock shipping companies by Decision of the Government of the Russian Federation. Therefore, the State reimburses the expenses on icebreaker maintenance not covered by the income. Ports are transferred into ownership of the Arctic Federal Subjects.

The directions of cargo traffic remain identical: cabotage cargo supply from the west (24%), from the east (11%), internal Arctic cabotage (0,5%), Arctic cabotage export (32%), Arctic foreign export (25%), import (2%), transit cargo transportation (5%). Ice classified vessels (17 - ULA and 97 - UL) cover the great bulk of cargo transportation. However, there is a shortage of tankers, reefer vessels and supply vessels. Up to 10 foreign tankers (Latvian and Finnish) are rented for oil product supply of the points of the Russian Arctic. Foreign tankers are placed under the authority of the Russian-Finish company «Arctic Shipping Service» (Murmansk). Arctic ports (Dikson, Tiksi, Pevek, Dudinka, etc.) are annually opened for foreign vessels by the Russian Federation Government.

On the whole, the potential of the icebreaker and transport fleet in the Arctic is able to ensure, up to 2002, stabilization and then recovery of the volume of cargo traffic along the NSR to the level of 1986. Reserves of Russian transport vessels and icebreakers of strengthened ice class could ensure the increase in the cargo transportation volume between the ports of Europe, North America and Asia up to 300-350 thousand tonnes.


    Yury Ivanov, Anatoly Yakovlev, 1998, Current Use of the Northern Sea Route, INSROP.©

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