The Russian Arctic Straits

Author(s) R. Douglas Brubaker
Publisher Martinus Nijhoff Publishers
Date 2005
Pages 275
Format pdf
Size 2 Mb







Several countries have been interested in the opening of an Arctic sea route north of Russia, which would greatly reduce shipping distances between the ports of Europe, Asia, and North America. Because of modern technology it may be possible to reduce commercial shipping expenses and increase revenues by a transit of the Northern Sea Route.

Likely cargoes would include bulk and containerised cargo, comprising fertilisers, fabricated metals, agricultural and forest products, shipped between Northwest Europe and the Far East, and the U.S. and Canadian West Coast. This vision, however, may be unrealistic due to the extreme ice and weather conditions in the eastern section of the Northern Sea Route (NSR), making the long term economics unprofitable, though climate change may be a moderating factor.

Only regional use to and from Russian Arctic destinations appear realistic in the short term. Hydrocarbons, oil, and condensates have been shipped regionally between Northwest Russia, Timan Pechora, Yamalo-Nenets and the Yenisey basin. The main problems involving transport along the Northern Sea Route include the cost of insurance, the cost of new vessel design technology, and both an operational and political risk factor. A major concern also relates to the effects such a route may have on the Arctic environment,'' which has been a subject of much study.

Furthermore, during the Cold War the Arctic was known for its political sensitivity, being strategically important to both the Soviet Union and the United States. As a consequence there is still considerable controversy over the precise legal status of the Russian Arctic route." Though Russian and Soviet vessels have traversed these waters rather frequently, the passage of foreign vessels has been mostly exceptional.

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