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International Northern Sea Route Programme (INSROP)

INSROP (International Northern Sea Route Programme) was a six-year (June 1993 - March 1999) international research programme designed to create an extensive knowledge base about the ice-infested shipping lanes running along the coast of the Russian Arctic from Novaya Zemlya in the west to the Bering Strait in the east. This route was previously named the Northeast Passage, but is now more often known under its Russian name - the Northern Sea Route (NSR).

The NSR represents an up to 40% saving of distance from Northern Europe to Northeast Asia and the north-west coast of North America compared to southerly sea routes via Suez or Panama. Moreover, the Russian Arctic holds enormous reserves of oil, gas and other natural resources which may best be exported by sea.

Acknowledging the need to establish an extensive NSR knowledge base, the multidisciplinary INSROP was created to investigate all aspects of potential, increased, international use of the NSR. The programme, which has primarily been a joint Norwegian-Japanese-Russian venture, enlisted more than 450 scholars in 14 countries. In all, 167 technical reports on a very broad spectre of subjects have been published, as well as several books and other end products, including the INSROP GIS Database. All products have been made available to the public. Shortly after the completion of the programme, the Northern Sea Route User Conference was organized by the main INSROP partners in Oslo, Norway in November 1999, in order to disseminate INSROP results to the shipping industry and other potential NSR users and stake-holders.

The Fridtjof Nansen Institute acted as Secretariat for the programme, and its researchers carried out much of the research within Sub-programme IV: Political, Legal and Strategic Factors.

More information about INSROP can be found on the INSROP website.

FNI project leader: Willy Østreng / Claes Lykke Ragner

Project period: 1993-99

Main publications by FNI authors:

Brubaker, R. Douglas and Claes Lykke Ragner, 'A Review of the International Northern Sea Route Program (INSROP) – 10 Years on'. Polar Geography, Vol 33, Nos 1-2, 2010, pp. 15-38.

Ragner, Claes Lykke, 'Den norra sjövägen' ('The Northern Sea Route'). In Hallberg, Torsten (ed), Barents – ett gränsland i Norden ('The Barents – A Nordic Borderland'). Stockholm, Arena Norden, 2008, pp. 114-127. In Swedish and English.

Brubaker, R. Douglas, The Russian Arctic Straits. Leiden, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2004, 276 p.

Ragner, Claes Lykke, 'The Northern Sea Route: Commercial potential, economic significance, and infrastructure requirements'. Post-Soviet Geography and Economics, Vol 41, No 8, 2000, pp. 541-580.

Ragner, Claes Lykke, Northern Sea Route Cargo Flows and Infrastructure – Present State and Future Potential. FNI Report 13/2000. Lysaker, FNI, 2000, 124 p.

Ragner, Claes Lykke (ed), The 21st Century - Turning Point for the Northern Sea Route? Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000.

Østreng, Willy (Editor in Chief), Natural and Societal Challenges of the Northern Sea Route. A Reference Work. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999.

Østreng, Willy (ed), National Security and International Environmental Cooperation in the Arctic – the Case of the Northern Sea Route. Kluwer, 1999.

Many more publications can be found on the INSROP website.
 Related focal points of research:

   Law of the Sea and marine affairs
   Arctic and Russian politics

Project funding:

   The Nippon Foundation /Ship & Ocean Foundation.
   The Research Council of Norway.
   The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
   The Norwegian Regional Development Fund (SND).
   The Central and Eastern Europe Programme.
   The Norwegian Ministry of Industry and Trade.
   The Norwegian Ministry of the Environment.
   The Fridtjof Nansen Institute.
   Phillips Petroleum Company Norway.
   Norwegian Shipowners’ Association.
   Norsk Hydro.
   The Russian Federation.
   Murmansk Shipping Company.

 Main external cooperation partners:

   Ship & Ocean Foundation (SOF), Japan
   Central Marine Research and Design Institute (CNIIMF), Russia

Recent relevant FNI News:

Arctic Shipping: Transit Still Far off, but Legal Regime Needs Strengthening (13.04.07)

Recent media coverage:

'Daikoukaijidai kara no yume: Hokkyokkaikouro' ('The Northern Sea Route: A Dream since the Age of Discoveries', Sasakawa Yohei Blog, 1 November 2008. In Japanese.

Fridtjof Nansen Institute
P.O. Box 326, 1326 Lysaker, Norway. Tel: (+47) 67111900 / E-mail: post (