Conventional and Deep-Water Shipping Passages Along the Northern Sea Route

Conventional and Deep-Water Shipping Passages Along the Northern Sea Route

Andrey Afonin (Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping, Russia), Evgeniy Olkhovik (Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping, Russia) and Alexander Tezikov (Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping, Russia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6954-1.ch015


The chapter presents a description of conventional and deep-water shipping routes within the water areas of the Northern Sea Route (NSR). There are provided the evaluation of the hydrographical survey of the Arctic Ocean seabed with respect to navigational safety along with the summary of the principal factors affecting the efficiency and safety of shipping in the polar water. The chapter discusses the current situation and major development tendencies of the NSR, in particular the forecasted growth of navigation intensity, increase of the shares of high ice-strengthened heavy-tonnage vessels and hazardous cargoes in transportation, and spread of the year-round navigation zone to the East. Some of the research findings obtained during the previous decade at the Arctic Faculty of Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping are provided. The assessment of the effects of shallows and ice on the working capacity of the NSR for deep-draft vessels is provided.
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Contemporary History of the NSR

The systematic study and development of the NSR started after 1930. In 1932, the Council of People’s Commissars of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics established the Main Directorate of the NSR with a purpose to make the final sea route from the White Sea to the Bering Strait, equip this route, keep it in good order, and ensure safety of navigation (Aleeva, 2003). The task was accomplished by 1960. In 1964, the functions of the Main Directorate of the NSR were transferred to the Ministry of the Navy. At that time, a coastal part of the NSR (traditional route) constituted a network of recommended routes used primarily during summer navigation period by the vessels of up to 6-7 m draft.

In Russia, the boundaries of the NSR are established by the Federal Law “On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation Concerning State Regulation of Merchant Shipping on the Water Area of the Northern Sea Route” (Government of the Russian Federation, 2012). The Law recognizes the NSR as the water area adjacent to the northern coast of Russia, which covers the inland seas, the territorial sea, the adjacent zone, and the exclusive economic zone of Russia. In the east, the route is bounded by the Russia-USA maritime border and the parallel of the Cape Dezhnev in the Bering Strait. In the west, it is bounded by the meridian of the Cape of Desire to the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago, the eastern coastline of the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago and western boundaries of the Matochkin Strait, the Kara Gate, and the Ugra Bowl. Among the principal goals of the development of the Arctic, the State Program for Social and Economic Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation (Government of the Russian Federation, 2017) defines the creation of the conditions for the development of the NSR as a national transport route of Russia. Government of the Russian Federation (2008, 2011, 2013, 2015) and Government of Murmanskaya Oblast (2013) provide a broader definition of the NSR, i.e. the water areas of the seas in the Arctic Ocean.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Geoinformation Systems (GIS) Modeling: The software tools for displaying and analyzing a set of layers with heterogeneous data, including navigational charts, ice situation forecasts for ice cohesion, data on the routes, and speed of various vessels in different time intervals.

Arctic Large-Tonnage Vessels: Oil and liquefied natural gas tankers of Arc7 ice class and above allowing the navigation without icebreaker assistance.

Northern Sea Route (NSR): The shortest sea route between the European part of Russia and the Far East. Russia’s legislation defines the NSR as the historically established national unified transport communications of Russia in the Arctic.

Ice Conditions of Navigation: A complex of external factors, including ice cohesion and thickness, navigation period, conditions for the destruction of ice by the hull of a vessel, possibility of a vessel to be guided by an icebreaker.

Maritime Transport Flow in Arctic: An Arctic shipping in ice conditions, uncertain hydro and meteorological conditions, poorly studied seabed structure (hydrography), and other factors which influence the commercial speed of the vessels, including with icebreaker assistance.

Increase in Cargo Turnover in the Arctic: An increase in the number of vessels of high ice class, increase in the number of vessels engaged in transit transport, expansion of the network of navigable routes in the Arctic, and the year-round use of high-latitude routes.

Safety of Polar Navigation: A complex of measures to reduce the risks of navigational accidents in the Arctic associated with obtaining damage to the hull of a vessel about ice, landing of a vessel on the strand, ship bulk, and environmental incidents.

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