Northern Sea Route: difficulties to be faced
At the moment, the Arctic zone is considered the least studied, the reason for this can be called rather difficult climatic conditions that impede the organization of transport activities on the NSR. However, in the face of sanctions pressure and logistical restrictions from states unfriendly to Russia, the development of the Northern Sea Route is becoming the most relevant direction for the development of the domestic cargo transportation system.
During his last address to the Federal Assembly, President Vladimir Putin noted that the Russian Federation plans to further develop the Northern Sea Route, stressing that such activities will have a positive impact on the fate of Siberia and the Far East. It is also worth noting that the words of the head of state are confirmed by the dynamics of traffic volumes on this route. Thus, in 2021, the cargo turnover along the Northern Sea Route amounted to 35 million tons, which is almost 18 times more than the same indicator for 2006, when 1,96 million tons of cargo was transported along the NSR. In addition, according to the decree of Vladimir Putin dated May 7, 2018, the annual volume of traffic along the NSR should reach 80 million tons by 2024.
Despite the positive dynamics of cargo turnover over the past 25 years, it is necessary to take into account the fact that the development of the Northern Sea Route is associated with a large number of organizational and technical difficulties.
Currently, the Northern Sea Route has a fairly serious logistics infrastructure, which includes 70 ports, the largest of which are in Murmansk, Igarka, Arkhangelsk, Tiksi, Dudinka and Pevek. Navigation activities on the NSR during the winter period are associated with overcoming huge thicknesses of ice and prolonged stay in sub-zero temperatures. Many experts draw their attention to the fact that at the moment not all sections of the route have technical the opportunity to organize regular navigation, a particularly vulnerable area in this regard is the Eastern sector of the Northern Sea Route.
Thus, one of the primary problems for the NSR is a certain lack of ice-class vessels, which are the main driving force on this route. Currently, the domestic icebreaking fleet includes about 30 diesel icebreakers, 7 nuclear icebreakers and the Sevmorput lighter carrier. Over the past three years, three icebreakers of the new project 22220 (Arktika, Sibir and Ural) have been put into operation. In 2025, the country's nuclear fleet should replenish another icebreaker of this project - Yakutia. Also, quite recently, FSUE Atomflot announced that the fifth and sixth serial nuclear icebreakers of the project will be named Kamchatka and Sakhalin, their laying is scheduled for 2024 and 2025, respectively. In addition, the construction of the first nuclear icebreaker of project 10510 Leader is underway, its commissioning date is set for the end of 2027.
It should also be understood that fairly large-scale investments are needed to operate the Northern Sea Route on a regular basis. Some of them are carried out from budget funds, the rest of the financial investments fall on the shoulders of large companies that are key users of this route (Nornickel, Gazprom, Lukoil, Rosneft, Rosshelf, Rosatom, Novatek " and others). The situation with investments is complicated by the fact that, given the difficult climatic conditions and economic и political uncertainty dramatically increases the payback period of financial investments, which serves as a stopping factor for large private investors.
Another problem is the state of the port infrastructure, which is involved in the operation of the Northern Sea Route. At the moment, it is underdeveloped, especially when it comes to international transportation. So, in 2022, the Plan for the Development of the Northern Sea Route until 2035 was approved. Its main provisions are aimed specifically at creating the infrastructure of the NSR. About 150 events are expected to be held, the total amount of funding for which should reach 1,8 trillion rubles.
In addition, we can talk about the existing problem of an environmental nature. With an increasing anthropogenic load on the territory of the Northern Sea Route, it is necessary to try to preserve the almost untouched and extremely fragile ecology of the Arctic region. Do not forget about the reverent attitude to the way of life and way of life of the indigenous peoples of the North living in the polar regions.
Also, one of the key points in the operation of the Russian Federation of the Northern Sea Route is the issues of national security. The political confrontation between Russia and the Western states, which escalated to the maximum against the backdrop of the crisis in Ukraine, led to the introduction of new sanctions that required our country to respond. On July 31, 2022, a new Naval Doctrine was issued by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. Increased attention is paid to the main challenges and threats to national security associated with the oceans. Thus, the document refers to the strategic course of the United States of America and other states aimed at their dominance in the oceans. Countries unfriendly to us are trying to limit the access of the Russian Federation to various resources located in the waters of the World Ocean, to minimize the possibility of Russia's access to transport communications. The controversy of some states comes to raising issues related to territorial claims against the Russian Federation, which directly threatens the security of our country.
From the foregoing, we can conclude that in the current economic and political situation and as a result of active actions on the part of the states of the Western world, a number of well-established transport and logistics chains have been violated. Such events are directly related to the economic security of the Russian Federation and force decisions to be made on the search and development of alternative routes, one of which is the Northern Sea Route. The development of the NSR is one of the priority areas for our country in the Arctic region, and therefore all areas closely related to it can expect an increase in investment and the development of transport infrastructure in the near future.
- Author: Viktor Anufriev