Russia plans year-round shipping on the North Sea Route in early 2024 Ship’s crew

Russian state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom and Novatek, Russia’s largest natural gas producer, plan to begin year-round shipping in the eastern part of the North Sea Route early next year, Rosatom CEO Alexei Likhachev said said at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Together with Novatek, we plan to introduce 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 for our country’s economy,” he said.

President Putin described the North Sea Route as “extremely important” to Russian interests as climate change creates more opportunities for shipping via the route, which serves as the shortest sea connection between Asia and Europe.

“We have to think about the future. “The North Sea Route is opening up,” Putin said. “For better or for worse, it’s happening – the North Sea Route is opening up.”

Shipping across the Arctic is vital for Russia as it allows Russia to tap into its vast Arctic natural resources such as oil and gas reserves, as well as high-value minerals that are vital to the country’s economy. Shipping in the Arctic strengthens Russia’s claim to sovereignty over the region.

According to Russian Minister for Russian Far East and Arctic Development Alexei Chekunkov, freight traffic along the NSR has increased from 4 million tons in 2014 to 34 million tons in 2022, becoming an important transport corridor for export developed from oil (LNG), mineral fertilizers, metals and other products. He added that the goal is to ensure that the NSR can support a capacity of up to 100 million tons by 2026 and 200 million tons by 2030.

To achieve that goal, Chekunkov says, the NSR will need the necessary infrastructure upgrades, from cargo hubs and ports to additional icebreakers and ice-class ships. Investments in maritime safety, including improved weather forecasting, ice monitoring, and emergency rescue and medical services. The plan also envisages centralizing the control and development of the NSR.

Overall, developing the NSR will require 1.8 trillion rubles (about $22.4 billion), including 620 billion rubles (about $7.7 billion) funded by the Russian government, Chekunkov said .

According to Rosatom’s Likhachev, Russia currently has 30 ships operating on the Northern Sea Route, with another 33 under construction. “In total, we need up to 100 Arctic-class ships and at least 15 floating power units. “These many new ships are of course a challenge for domestic shipbuilding,” he said.

Training of personnel to crew the fleet is “of paramount importance,” Likhachev said.

“By 2030 alone, we need at least 7,500 crew members, considering the number of ships needed. That includes at least 1,500 crew members from the nuclear icebreaker fleet,” he said.

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