Summary of Working Paper No. 117-1998

III.01.2 Economic Development in Northern Siberia and the Russian Far East: Implications for the Northern Sea Route

By R. Castberg, A. Moe, and A. Berteig, Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Lysaker, Norway

The aim of the report is to give a general overview of the economic structure and activities in Siberia and the Russian Far East which may have relevance for the Northern Sea Route, and to point out developments which may influence traffic on the NSR in the coming years. Focus is set on the High North and territories that are connected to or dependent on the Northern Sea Route and connected waterways and on primary economic activities along the NSR, mainly extraction of natural resources. The report complements previous studies in the INSROP programme on the most promising areas and sectors, summarises conclusions from these works, and provide information about regions not covered by other INSROP reports. The report also gives an overview of the transport systems in the area.

In the description of actual developments in specific areas the approach is mostly qualitative and structured around the main rivers with connection to the NSR. In order to pin-point areas of potential development the report relies on resource-oriented secondary literature. However, this literature does not pay sufficient attention to the economic and commercial foundation for resource development. Assuming that plans for and news about actual developments would be reflected in the international press, databases which cover a large number of general business oriented newspaper and periodicals have been searched. Very few such plans have been identified. Whereas other INSROP reports have concluded that there is a considerable potential for increased traffic in the western part of the NSR (Ob-Yenisey area), this paper does not indicate such developments further east. Since the late 1980s cargo volumes on the NSR have dropped drastically. Although there are some areas and resources that could be developed and possibly generate cargo for the NSR, this is not reported to be happening at the moment. Most of the actual areas of development are located further south, where railway transportation is a more likely solution. Many of the regions resources like rare metals and diamonds do not generate large volumes requiring sea transportation. For the foreseeable future the low world market price on coal does not allow for development of the coal recourses, which were earlier viewed as possible cargo for the NSR.