The aim of INSROP is to build up a scientific knowledge base on possibilities for, and consequences of, commercial navigation along the Northern Sea Route. The purpose of this knowledge base is to provide a foundation for long-term planning and rational decision-making by Russian and non-Russian public authorities and private interests regarding the use of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) for transit and regional development.

The NSR is a vast area, and INSROP encompasses a variety of topics. In the world of today, decision-makers are often literally 'drowned' by information, and it may therefore be tough always to make decisions based on a sound evaluation of all relevant issues of a case. To improve the quality of decision-making from a variety of information, the information must be organised and communicated effectively. Maps and photos (e.g. from remotely sensed data) communicate information far more rapidly than any text-based description.

The multi-disciplinary aspect of INSROP also requires a flow of information between INSROP projects. INSROP sub-programmes focusing on the physical and biological environment already in the planning of INSROP realised the advantages of co-operating on the design and development of a GIS. This GIS was intended to serve as a tool for storage, retrieval and analysis of information from the two sub-programmes. By co-operating, duplication of work was minimised, and data of common interest could be shared without having to reformat the data.

Provided the source information is organised properly, current Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology enables decision-makers access to textual documentation, tables, charts and maps which can be retrieved and studied depending on the problem at hand. Once organised into a GIS, the information is also more readily available for further processing and analysis. During the course of the INSROP GIS projects, new software developments have enabled us to develop INSROP GIS as an integrated information system based on GIS technology. As such it has the potential of serving as base or part of an NSR information system for an operational NSR situation, but the current version of INSROP GIS is limited to the needs of the INSROP programme and within the financial and temporal frames of the GIS development projects.

The development of INSROP GIS is therefore intended to serve two correlated purposes: 1) during INSROP, to serve as a tool for organisation and storage of INSROP data and for project-related analysis work; and 2), to grow into a computerised up-to-date realisation of the INSROP knowledge base.

This documentation is primarily intended to document INSROP GIS in its present state, and provide guidance for use of INSROP GIS. Although some basic ArcView information is also included, the INSROP GIS documentation is not intended to replace the ArcView documentation. Hence, any user of INSROP GIS should first get familiar with ArcView and the ArcView user documentation before learning to make use of the additional INSROP GIS functionality.