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Shipping on the Northern Sea Route

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Author(s): Arild Moe, Senior Research Fellow, Fridtjof Nansen Institute

The Northern Sea Route (NSR) is the term used by Russia to describe the sea area between Novaya Zemlya island in the west to the Bering Strait in the east and out to 200 nautical miles from shore. It also describes an area where Russia maintains a special regime for navigation, with reference to the “ice paragraph”, article 234 in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that allows coastal
states to regulate traffic on a nondiscriminatory basis in ice-covered areas within the exclusive economic zone to prevent pollution.

Shipping companies using the sea route must apply to Russia’s Northern Sea Route Administration to enter or pass through the sea route area. The administration determines whether icebreaker escort is required or if the ship can navigate autonomously, based on ice class, season and ice situation. If escort is required, the shipping company or the cargo owner must negotiate conditions for escort with…

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