Arctic Warming Heats Russian Ambition in Shipping, Weapons

April 20, 2021

Acronym to remember: NSR.

CNN:

The climate emergency has removed many of Russia’s natural defenses to its north, such as walls of sheet ice, at an unanticipated rate. “The melt is moving faster than scientists predicted or thought possible several years ago,” said the senior State Department official. “It’s going to be a dramatic transformation in the decades ahead in terms of physical access.”

US officials also expressed concern at Moscow’s apparent bid to influence the “Northern Sea Route” — a shipping lane that runs from between Norway and Alaska, along Russia’s northern coast, across to the North Atlantic. The ‘NSR’ potentially halves the time it currently takes shipping containers to reach Europe from Asia via the Suez Canal.

Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear company released elaborately produced drone video this February of the ‘Christophe de Margerie’ tanker completing an eastern route across the Arctic in winter for the first time, accompanied by the ’50 Let Pobedy’ nuclear icebreaker for its journey in three of the six Arctic seas.Campbell said Russia sought to exploit the NSR as a “major international shipping lane,” yet voiced concern at the rules Moscow was seeking to impose on vessels using the route.

“Russian laws governing NSR transits exceed Russia’s authority under international law,” the Pentagon spokesman said. “They require any vessel transiting the NSR through international waters to have a Russian pilot onboard to guide the vessel. Russia is also attempting to require foreign vessels to obtain permission before entering the NSR.”

ANADOLU AGENCY (Turkey):

Russia, which paid a heavy price not being able to use the Northern Sea route in the Russo-Japanese war of 1905, solved this problem, at least militarily, by having by far the largest icebreaker fleet in the world. While, however, the commercially expensive icebreaker ships do not offer a competitive solution, global warming came to Russia’s aid on this issue.

The noticeable thinning of the ice sheet covering the Arctic Ocean in recent years has reduced the need for icebreakers. In addition, merchant ships were equipped with ice-breaking capabilities, enabling them to make their voyages over the Northern Sea Route by themselves.

A Russian ship transporting LNG from Yamal, one of Russia’s largest natural gas fields, on the North Sea coast to China, made its return journey on Jan. 27-Feb. 19, 2020, in the middle of winter and without the need for icebreaker assistance.

The Northern Sea Route is no longer a dangerous and impassable sea as it was in previous centuries, and countries and global companies involved in maritime transport started using this course at increasing rates every year.

In 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the annual average cargo volume over the Northern Sea Route to be increased from 30 million tons to 80 million tons by 2024.

China, one of the first countries to try this route for commercial purposes, has been sending an increasing number of ships to Europe via the Northern Sea Route since 2013. While this number was 12 in 2017, it reached the same number in January-August 2018.

It can be seen as interconnected moves for China that it became an observer member of the Arctic Council in 2013 and started implementing its One Belt-One Road Initiative in the same year.

4 Responses to “Arctic Warming Heats Russian Ambition in Shipping, Weapons”

  1. Keith McClary Says:

    This is worth a glance:
    “Navigating the Northern Sea Route”

    Click to access nsr_advisory.pdf


    “Icebreaker assistance involves ice reconnaissance. Icebreakers make channels in ice. This involves the formation of a group of ships following the icebreakers. Ships sail through the channel behind an icebreaker in tow, without towing in an independent mode or as part of a group of ships to ensure the navigation safety.”

    After reading that, this complaint seems a bit silly:
    “Russian laws governing NSR transits exceed Russia’s authority under international law,” the Pentagon spokesman said. “They require any vessel transiting the NSR through international waters to have a Russian pilot onboard to guide the vessel. Russia is also attempting to require foreign vessels to obtain permission before entering the NSR.”
    I’m sure there would be no problem if you provided your own icebreaker and Navigational-hydrographic and Hydrometeorologic Support, etc.


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  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Isn’t traveling from Norway to Alaska a Canadian issue, or is that too iceberg-y?


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