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.

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