New record in the Northeast Passage | Polarjournal

The “Christophe de Margerie” LNG tanker is one of several ships transporting LNG on the Northeast Passage. (Photo: Rosmorport)

Never before have such large quantities of cargo been transported along the Northeast Passage. According to the Russian Federal Maritime and Inland Navigation Agency, a total of 22.98 million tonnes were shipped on this route in the period January-September 2020. That’s 1.5 percent more than in the same period in 2019. Transit traffic accounted for 580,000 tons, the agency said.

Already in autumn 2018, the shipping company Maersk had sent its container ship “Maerks MC-Kinney Moller” from South Korea to St. Petersburg along the Northeast Passage. (Photo: Maersk)

Ship traffic on the Northeast Passage (NOP) has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2017, a total of 10.7 million tonnes were transported along the route. In 2018, the volume increased to 20.18 million tons and in 2019 to 31.5 million tons. The total volume is expected to exceed 32 million in 2020.

Rosatom, the state agency for nuclear energy, is responsible for the development of the Northeast Passage. Vyacheslav Ruksha, Director of Rosatom’sNorth Sea Route Directorate, recently made it clear that Vladimir Putin’s ambitious 80 million tonnes target will not be achievable by 2024. ʺI think, however, that we will reach the ambitious target in 2025 and by 2030 we are expected to make it to 110 million tonnes of freight.” Ruksha said.

Vyacheslav Ruksha has been Deputy Director General of Rosatom since 2018 and Director of the Rosatom Directorate for the Northern Sea Route. (Foto: Rosatom)

More traffic thanks to climate change

The increase in shipments in the Arctic is due to the fact that sea ice in this area is shrinking at record speed after an unprecedented warming. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the extent of the Arctic ice sheet reached its second-lowest level in 2020 since records began in 1978 The ice edge north of Spitsbergen and Russia’s Arctic archipelago retreated to 85 degrees north latitude in several areas.

By the end of September, the sea ice on the Northern Sea route had completely disappeared. (Map: aari.ru)

The news magazine Der Spiegel is currently reporting on a “dramatic and hardly surprising” development in the Arctic. The ice cover around the North Pole “continues to melt” and shrink drastically. “This summer, it was more powerful than ever.” The outlook is fatal, polar researchers warn. The entire Northern sea route is now ice-free. There are only a few areas left with drifting icebergs around the Vilkitsky Strait and at Cape Zhelaniya in Novaya Zemlya, according to the Federal Maritime and River Transport Agency.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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