Geographical Review, Vol 107, No 1, 2017, pp. 48–68
The USSR and now Russia have employed a fleet of large icebreakers to gain access across the Russian maritime Arctic and facilitate traffic through the Northern Sea Route (NSR). Since 2008 Atomflot has played a very influential role, not only in the management and operation of Russia’s icebreakers, but in laying premises for the NSR as a whole. The current NSR Administration within the Ministry of Transport does not appear to have roles in policy formation or icebreaker management or planning. Several of the Soviet-era nuclear-powered icebreakers are in need of replacement, but the construction program for new ships is marked by controversies. There is no integrated management of nuclear and conventional icebreakers and it is unclear how the icebreaker fleet will be used to enhance the effectiveness of NSR operations and also to what extent the authorities will allow the independent navigation of icebreaking commercial carriers without convoy escort by icebreakers.