Russia to begin year-round voyages from the Arctic to Asia in 2024


Russia will begin year-round voyages from the Arctic to Asia along the eastern section of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) from 2024, an opening of a tradelane with huge implications for the global seaborne map.

“Together with Novatek, we plan to launch year-round navigation in the eastern part of the NSR early next year. This is a truly historic decision, important for the development of the entire Arctic and of particular importance, of course, for the economy of our country,” said Alexei Likhachev, CEO of Rosatom, operator of Russia’s nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet.

Novatek has been developing many LNG plants in the Arctic over the past decade to supply customers in Asia.
It was only two years ago that the first trial winter voyage of an LNG carrier was concluded.

Arctic sea ice has been shrinking for decades. That loss has opened shipping channels in the Northwest Passage and the NSR, allowing even non-icebreaker vessels to skip the time-consuming Panama and Suez Canals farther south.

Between 1979 and 2020, the average amount of sea ice extent in the Arctic, defined as the region of ocean with at least some ice, dropped by a surface area nearly equivalent to Greenland, according to the Journal of Operational Oceanography.

The Vladimir Putin-led administration has invested vast sums in recent years to develop ports, bunkering facilities and ice breakers in a bid to grow traffic along the northern maritime rim of the planet

An in-depth study of Arctic shipping over the coming decades carried out last year by researchers from Browne and Maine universities in the US pointed to a massive opening up of traffic in the north of the globe Amanda Lynch, the study’s lead author, commented: “Diversifying trade routes — especially considering new routes that can’t be blocked, because they’re not canals — gives the global shipping infrastructure a lot more resiliency.”

China, a non-Arctic littoral state, has been advancing its ambitions to ship goods via this quicker, northern route to Europe a great deal in recent years.

A host of NGOs have been leading campaigns at the International Maritime Organization for years to try and cut shipping’s carbon footprint in transiting the Arctic.

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