Volumes shipped along Russia’s Northern Sea Route more than quintuple in five years

The volume of cargo shipped along Russia’s Northern Sea Route this year is set to be up more than five-fold compared to five years ago. Some 13m tons of cargo has been shipped through this growing Arctic route as of October 1, according to statistics from Aleksandr Kalashnikov, the department head at the Northern Sea Route Administration, with the full-year figure likely to hit 17m tons. By comparison, just 3m tons was shipped through this shortcut from Asia to Europe in 2013.

Growing LNG projects in the far north of Russia have seen volumes grow this year while Cosco and Maersk have carried out their own landmark voyages too in 2018.

The growing number of ships plying this delicate area has seen calls by environmentalists to ban the use of heavy fuel oil in the region, something that was discussed at IMO last week.

The Northern Sea Route was only opened to international shipping in 1991 with the fall of the USSR.

Earlier this year China laid down its vision for a ‘Polar Silk Road’, vowing to develop the Arctic as a shipping highway.

Releasing its first official Arctic policy white paper in late January, China said it would encourage enterprises to build infrastructure and conduct commercial trial voyages in the region.

State-backed Cosco has recently been linked with buying into Russian state-backed tanker giant Sovcomflot, which would give the Chinese far greater expertise in Arctic shipping. Cosco denied the acquisition when contacted by Splash, while a London-based spokesperson for Sovcomflot said: “”It is the prerogative of the shareholder of Sovcomflot to make any decisions related to the terms, conditions, and dates of the privatisation of the company.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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