The Russian government has announced a major infrastructure development plan for the Northern Sea Route (NSR) as part of its efforts to make the Arctic viable for commercial shipping.
A document signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and published on December 30th says the plans will lead to development of new ships, satellites for navigation and mapping of natural resources.
In total, there are 84 separate initiatives and the government will be supported by Rosatom, the nuclear power giant that has already invested heavily in the NSR.
The plans build upon previous announcements made by the Russian government to develop the NSR. In May 2018 President Vladimir Putin put forward plans to increase traffic on the NSR to 80 million tonnes by 2024.
Russia will build 40 new vessels, several of which will be nuclear icebreakers, by 2035. As well as five LK60 icebreakers, the government will build three Lider-class vessels, the first of which will be operational by 2027.
These will be able to break through the thickest Arctic ice and open up new shipping lanes across the region for commercial vessels.
As part of the major infrastructure overhaul Russia plans to build a number of railways connecting industrial heartlands to the Arctic coast. This includes a 46 kilometer long railway and port facilities on the western banks of Kola Bay.
It will also begin major dredging operations in the Gulf of Ob to allow the passage of large vessels in the region. Both the dredging and the railway projects are due to be completed by December 2021.
The NSR is one of the most contentious subjects in the maritime industry and many of the world’s largest carriers, including MSC, Hapag-Lloyd and CMA CGM, have ruled out using it for fear doing so could damage the environment.
For more information on the NSR, read this exclusive PTI insight from 2018.