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.

Project period: 1993-1999


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  • The Nippon Foundation /Ship & Ocean Foundation.
  • The Research Council of Norway.
  • The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Kværner.
  • 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.