Trailblazing Through Ice: Russia Optimistic About 'Short Cut' Sea Route

Monday, November 29, 1999
Russia expressed optimism about plans for a short-cut Arctic sea route between Europe and the Pacific Ocean despite skepticism from the Russian military and some foreign shipowners. "Of course there are problems...but we look at the future of the Northern Sea Route with optimism," Russian Transport Minister Sergei Frank said. The seaway is almost 40 percent, or up or 4,000 miles (6,400 km), shorter than conventional routes via the Suez or Panama canals between Europe and Japan. The end of the Cold War has revived mariners' dreams of creating a commercial passage through the ice. Frank said Russia is studying the building of a new generation of nuclear ice-breakers, used in past decades to plough a route through the Arctic for Soviet warships or cargo vessels carrying everything from nickel to farm produce. Moscow plans to invest $11 million in its ice-breaker fleet in 2000 as part of a five-fold overall rise in spending on the route from 1999, he said. Moscow now has six nuclear- and six diesel-powered ships in its ice-breaker fleet. Russia would also cut charges from 2000 for rental of ice-breakers to accompany cargo vessels, hoping to encourage foreign trade. Military Doubts Under the Northern Sea Route, ships would head east past Scandinavia, follow the northern Russian coast and then into the Pacific via the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia's Far East. Frank admitted that the Russian military had doubts about opening the route - the north coast of Russia would be a front line of defense against any missile attack by the U.S. Rolf Saether, head of the Norwegian Shipowners' Association, expressed skepticism about the route's commercial prospects. "We do not think that, in the immediate future, the northern sea route will play any vital role as a new sea route influencing world trade," he said. The first east-west passage along the northern sea route was in 1878 by a Swedish-Finnish expedition. Dutchman Willem Barents, who gave his name to the Barents Sea, died after his ship ran aground on Novaya Zemlya in 1596. Saether said that shallow straits off the coast of Russia would restrict drafts for any vessels to 20-25,000 dwt, a third or a quarter of vessels on the southerly routes. Additionally, thicker hulls for vessels for the Arctic would push up costs, while the route was only practical for most vessels for four to five months a year, he said. Higher risks would push up insurance costs. Frank said growing exports of oil, combined with growing coastal traffic, would bolster use of the Arctic sea route in coming years irrespective of traffic between the Pacific and Europe. Russia's largest oil producer LUKOIL was close to starting transport of oil from Varandey, Kolguev and Ob Bay, Frank said. Volumes of cargoes shipped in the Russian Arctic region had tumbled to 1.5 million tons in 1999 from 6.6 million in 1987, partly due to economic turmoil and rationalization. He forecast that volumes, bolstered mainly by rising oil output from the region, were set to jump to four million tons in 2005 and 50 million in 2020. - (Alister Doyle, Reuters)
Maritime Reporter March 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Shipbuilding

Azeri Shipyard, BP Sign Vessel Construction Contract

Azeri state energy company SOCAR's shipyard and British oil major BP have signed a $378 million deal to design and build a subsea construction vessel for the Shah Deniz II gas project,

Fishing Vessels Fit with Wärtsilä’s NOx Reducer

Wärtsilä said its new NOx Reducer will be fitted to two new fishing vessels under construction at the Celiktrans yard in Turkey. The ships are owned by HB Grandi,

CMM Takes Delivery of Damen PSV for Brazil

New supplier CMM Gravity to start on long-term contract with Petrobras. CMM has taken delivery of a Damen Platform Supply Vessel 3300. The 80-meter, 3,300t deadweight

Navigation

Reminder Stresses Importance of Accurate Clearance Information

The Captain of the Port, New York-New Jersey, has issued a reminder about the importance of providing accurate clearance information, and warns that civil penalties

NOAA Begins Hydrographic Survey Season

New data will update nautical charts around the country. As sure as spring arrives, NOAA vessels and independent contractors are hitting the seas for the nation's

Air Draft Alert: Bayonne Bridge Struck Twice this Year

The Bayonne Bridge is undergoing a two-year construction project to raise the roadway an average of 65 feet. The Captain of the Port, New York-New Jersey says that

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Standards Naval Architecture Pipelines Port Authority Ship Electronics Ship Repair Sonar Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1030 sec (10 req/sec)