Aiming at the North
The Suez crisis showed the dependence of the global trade on reliable sea routes. Although the Northern Sea Route cannot become a comprehensive alternative to the Suez Canal, Russia’s Arctic logistics can nevertheless play a key role in export and short-sea traffic. Its development will be facilitated by infrastructure loans and other state support measures.
The Government of Russia has recently approved a roadmap on pursuance of the Basics of the State Policy in the Arctic through 2035 and the Arctic Zone Development Strategy through 2035. It provides for establishment of the Headquarters of Marine Operations on the NSR, integration of transport and logistic services provided in the NSR waters on a digital platform intended for electronic processing of multimodal passenger/cargo transportation, establishment of a unified platform of digital services available on the Northern Sea Route.
To support the shipping it is planned to build five multipurpose nuclear-powered icebreakers of 22220 design (the series is to be completed by the forth quarter of 2026), three nuclear-powered icebreakers of Leader design (by the forth quarter of 2032), 16 emergency rescue ships and rescue towboats of different capacity (by the forth quarter of 2024), 3 hydrographic ships and 2 buoy tenders (by the forth quarter of 2023).
In the transport part, it is foreseen to develop and approve a programme for construction of cargo vessels for commercial shipping under economic projects and construction of freight/passenger carriers for operation between sea and river ports in the Arctic Zone, establishment of Russian container operator for servicing international and coastal shipping in the Northern Sea Route waters, development and implementation of a plan of activities for expanding the shipping capacity of the White Sea – Baltic Sea Canal, basins of the Onega, Northern Dvina, Mezen, Pechora, Ob, Yenisey, Lena, Kolyma and other rivers in the Arctic Zone including dredging, development of ports and port points, generation of proposals on wider use of liquefied natural gas by sea and river transport on the Northern Sea Route.
Apart from introduction of gas fuel, the environmental safety is to be ensured through creation of an effective system for prevention and response to oil spills along the entire Northern Sea Route and within other transport corridors in the Arctic. Special attention is also paid to establishment of a reliable satellite communication and the Internet.
Russia’s latitudinal move
Railway infrastructure expansion is crucial for a comprehensive development of the Arctic Zone. The pivotal project in this respect is the Northern Latitudinal Railway in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area. The 707-kilometer long railway will provide a direct link between the Severnaya and Sverdlovskaya railroads along the Obskaya – Salekhard – Nadym – Pangody – Novy Urengoy – Korotchaevo route. The NLR project is being implemented through joint efforts of RF Government, Government of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area, Gazprom, Russian Railways a Development Corporation with Federal Railway Transport Agency to coordinate the construction works.
In his Address to the Federal Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested providing federal infrastructure loans. According to him, the infrastructure and budget loans should be provided exclusively for specific projects that have been thoroughly analysed by experts at the federal level. As an example of such projects, the President mention the construction of the Northern Latitudinal Railway in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area. “This project has been in the works for a long time now, and it's time to launch it”, said the President.
It should be noted that the NLR project is to be completed in 2022 with its annual throughput expected to make 23.9 million tonnes (mostly gas condensate and oil cargo).
The Northern Latitudinal Railway 2 project foresees the construction of the Bovanenkovo-Sabetta branch that will provide a direct link with the seaport. Implementation of the NLR and the NLR 2 projects will make Sabetta the easternmost port with the railway link on the Northern Sea Route.
The Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area Government estimate additional volume of liquid hydrocarbons to be handled in Sabbetta in case of NLR and NLR 2 implementation at 2.4 million tonnes by 2024 with a further growth later. Building up transport infrastructure on the Yamal will ensure a logistic link with Sabetta. Multimodal transportation with an entry to the Northern Sea Route can prove to be an attractive logistics for cargo shippers, believes the regional government.
We would like to emphasize that the NSR logistics involving inland water transport is also in demand. For example, there is a demand for grain supplies via Sabetta and across the Ob-Irtysh Basin. This logistics is expected to be 20% more profitable than the conventional routes. The Omsk Region has already been working towards it under a specially developed plan of activities. The potential can be expanded with the non-resource exports – products with high added value. In particular, the region is aiming at production of ultra-processed foods. For example, grain-based proteins are in high demand in the Asia-Pacific Region. Export flows can also be increased with flax and minerals.
By Vitaly Chernov
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