After losing two-thirds of its population since the 1980s, the town of Tiksi is counting on the emergence of the Northern Sea Route as profitable shipping lane for Moscow as it looks to reinvigorate a local shipping industry
Located above the Arctic Circle, east of the mouth of the Lena River, on the coast of the bay of the same name in the Laptev Sea, the town of Tiski has seen better times. At its height in the 1980s, it was home to 12,000 people, and 25% of cargo traffic to Yakutia passed through its port, where cargo was loaded from sea-going vessels to riverboats and transported onward via the Lena River.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and in the ensuing economic crisis of the 1990s, the port came to a standstill, jobs disappeared end living standards plummeted.
Today, its population has shrunk to 4,000, but its location may once again serve it well as Moscow seeks to turn its Northern Sea Route into a profitable shipping shipping lane connecting Europe and Asia. Situated halfway between Europe and Asia, Tiksi’s port would make an ideal stopover for vessels.
A key step towards the town’s revival came on 3 June, when Mikhail Mishustin, the prime minister, signed an order opening Tiski and and a number of other ports to foreign vessels. That would make Tiksi the only international port on the Northern Sea Route, and allow it to become a major transhipment hub that would enable development of the Northern Sea Route.
Rosatom, a state-owned firm that operates Russia’s fleet of nuclear icebreakers, is also involved in the project, and the hope is that the Kremlin’s involvement will attract the investments necessary for the construction of a deepwater port near the village of Nayba.
Should all go as Moscow plans, cargo throughput would reach 30 million tons annually by the 2030s. The improved port facilities and increased traffic would benefit the local economy, while, at the national level, adding port facilities on the Northern Sea Route would make Russia less dependent on the West.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal
Featured image: Sakha Republic
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