Northern Sea Route, Failure to Launch

Map of the Arctic region showing shipping routes Northeast Passage, Northern Sea Route, and Northwest Passage, and bathymetry, Arctic Council, by Susie Harder

gCaptain reports that despite record traffic, it appears there is little international interest in using the Northern Sea Route through the Russian Arctic to move cargo between the Atlantic and Pacific. Virtually all the traffic serves Russian local interests.

“Transit cargo contributed less than 3 percent to last year’s volumes through the Northern Sea Route,”

Low fuel prices have removed much of the incentive to use this shorter, but potentially more difficult route. Logically the same considerations apply to the North West Passage route as well. Given our unreadiness to deal with heavier traffic and the portential for an environmental disaster in the Arctic, this is probably good news for the US and Canadian coast guards. How long will these conditions continue? At the very least, we seem to have some time to get our act together.

3 thoughts on “Northern Sea Route, Failure to Launch

  1. the Russians are still pushing the Northern Sea Route for their own use.
    A report of a passage, without icebreaker assistance, but an ice strengthened LNG tanker over the entire length.

    “During her record-setting voyage, the LNG carrier covered 2,193 nautical miles (4,060 km) from Cape Zhelaniya of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago to Cape Dezhnev at Chukotka, Russia’s easternmost continental point. 
    “The vessel again proved her ability to operate in harsh, high-latitude environments. Her average speed during the passage exceeded 14 knots, despite the fact that in some areas she had to sail through ice fields 1.2 meters thick. 
    “The total time of the voyage from Hammerfest in Norway to the port of Boryeong in South Korea was 19 days, about 30 percent faster than the regular southern route through the Suez Canal.”

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