International Shipping and the Northern Sea Route

In Andrey Mineev, Anatoli Bourmistrov and Frode Mellemvik (eds), Global Development in the Arctic: International Cooperation for the Future. Routledge, 2022, pp. 216-231.

Traffic on the Northern Sea Route along Russia’s Siberian coast increased from 2010. But international transits between the Pacific and the Atlantic have not taken off as anticipated. Instead, the transportation of energy and mineral resources – mainly liquefied natural gas – from fields in Russia’s Arctic has come to dominate the sea route. Russian protectionist measures have limited the role of international shipping companies, but alliances between Russian and foreign companies could become important. Russia aims to build infrastructure facilitating year-round usage of the route, but international freight and commodities markets are likely to be decisive for the future volume of shipping. Further expansion of navigation rests on integration with the outside world in two ways: for the provision of technology and investment in the huge extraction projects and the associated specialized transportation fleet, and as market for the products, mainly LNG and oil. A new international situation following the war in Ukraine as well as the economic sanctions imposed on Russia will have negative consequences for both, but exactly how much it is too early to tell.



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