Norway closes seaports and border to Russian traffic

But fishing vessels and traffic to Svalbard are exempt.

Russian trawlers are seen at port in Kirkenes, Norway. (Atle Staalesen / The Independent Barents Observer)

The Norwegian government on Friday announced that it will follow the European Union’s decision to close seaports and borders to Russian goods traffic.

The closure of the seaports takes effect on May 7, while the border closed right away.

“We introduce the EU’s fifth package of sanctions, which means that [the border crossing] Storskog will be closed to goods traffic immediately,” Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt told NRK on Friday.

The border crossing that connects the Arctic Norwegian town of Kirkenes with the Russian Kola Peninsula had in recent weeks experienced a hike in truck traffic, as EU sanctions affected other cross-border routes.

Storskog is the only border crossing between Norway and Russia. It is normally not a busy checkpoint for heavy transports.

A major share of the people now crossing the border is sailors from Russian trawlers. They are believed to continue to travel.

According to the Minister of of Fisheries Bjørnar Skjæran, the upcoming closure of seaports will not affect the fishing industry. All Russian fishing vessels will still be able to visit Norwegian ports, unless they are owned by individuals that are subjected to sanctions, he told NRK.

Norway and Russia share big waters in the Barents Sea, and Russian ships are regularly making port calls in Norwegian towns either to land catch or do ship repair. The two countries have jointly managed the region’s rich cod stocks for more than 50 year, and cooperation is seen as crucial for the sustainable development of stocks.

The Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, which is under Norwegian sovereignty, but open to all signatories of the Svalbard Treaty and is home to a Russian settlement, is also exempt from the closures.