Governor: Climate Change Can Deprive Russia of Northern Sea Route

September 23, 2009
Russia must speed up the development of the Northern Sea Route before climate change makes it possible to use the North East Passage outside the Russian 200 miles zone, says Governor of Arkhangelsk Oblast Ilya Mikhailchuk.

- We have to start developing the Northern Sea Route, or else others will do it, Mikhailchuk said to the news agency Baltinfo. – For the time being Russia has the advantage of the ice being thinner inside than outside our 200 miles zone, he added.

Mikhailchuk maintains that the administration for the Northern Sea Route should be reestablished and that navigational and hydrographical points need to be established along the route.

The Northern Sea Route is Russia’s main arterial sea road in the Arctic. Along this route, all ports along the Russian northern coast are provided with fuel, materials and supplies, and timber and other natural resources are being brought out of the area. The main users of the route are Norilsk Nickel, Gazprom, Lukoil, Rosneft and Rosshelf.

Earlier this month, BarentsObserver could report that two German merchant vessels became the first foreign commercial vessels to make it through the formerly impenetrable passage without assistance of icebreakers.

Following the climate changes and rapidly decreasing sea ice in the Arctic, there is a growing interest in exploitation of the Northeast Passage. This is the shortest sea route between the Far East and the European parts of Russia. The distance from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok is 14.000 kilometers, compared to 23.000 kilometers through the Suez Canal.

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