Northern Sea Route – never as much cargo as in 2020 | Polarjournal
The nuclear icebreaker “50 Years of Victory” on its way through the Northeast Passage. (Foto: Alexander Ryumin)

FSUE Atomflot has summarized the preliminary results of its work in 2020. According to a statement, by December 22, 2020, the volume of transported cargo along the Northern Sea Route exceeded 32 million tons. The previous year, the figure was 31.5 million tonnes. The largest growth results from the implementation of the Yamal LNG project and the construction of the Arctic LNG 2 project on the Gydan Peninsula.

The Northern Sea route has a long history. The nuclear-powered icebreaker “Yamal” escorts ships in the Kara Sea on their way to Norilsk in December 1996. (Photo: TASS)

“A milestone of the past year for Rosatomflot was the commissioning of an automated control system of the Marine Operations Headquarters.. Several shipping companies have used the company’s new service for information and navigation support. During the summer-autumn navigation, we completed eleven transits without icebreaker support. This is a good indicator that allows us to predict further growth of voyages along the Northeast Passage in 2021,” explains Leonid Irlitsa, Chief Executive Officer of FSUE Atomflot. For the first time, the Northeast Passage was completely ice-free during the summer months of 2020.

“Christophe de Margerie” in the port of Sabetta. The LNG carrier is currently considered the largest icebreaking vessel in the world with a length of 299 meters. This year, the ship sailed through the Northeast Passage for the first time without an icebreaker escort. (Foto: Rosatomflot)

Rosatom establishes Marine Operations Headquarters.

At Rosatom, the headquarters for ship operations is now established to ensure the passage of ships along the Northern Sea Route. The order was signed by Alexey Likhachev, director general of Rosatom State Corporation. By the same order, FSUE Atomflot is authorized to coordinate permits for the passage of vessels in the waters along the Northern Sea Route. The introduction of an automated control system by the Marine Operations Headquarters makes the Northeast Passage waterway logistically more attractive. The rapid provision of personal information about the ship’s route can significantly reduce navigation conditions and thus costs.

Unrestrained growth

Shipping on the Northeast Passage has increased steadily over several years. In 2017, a total of 10.7 million tons were transported. In 2018, the volume doubled to 20.18 million tons. In 2019, there were 31.5 million tonnes, of which 20.5 tonnes were liquid natural gas, mainly from the Sabetta terminal.

However, the number of complete transits through the Northeast Passage without calling at a Russian port is still low.

President Putin’s plan to transport 80 million tons on the route by 2024, however, seems an overly lofty and difficult goal to achieve.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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