Rosatom names head of newly established Northern Sea Route directorate

Vyacheslav Ruksha will lead the company's new Moscow-based office overseeing the important Arctic shipping route.

Vyasheslav Ruksha is the new head of the Northern Sea Route Directorate. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer file photo)

Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear corporation, has appointed Vyacheslav Ruksha to be in charge of the Northern Sea Route between Asia and Europe. Ruksha comes from the position as Atomflot, the country’s fleet of civilian nuclear powered icebreakers based in Murmansk, where he was director general.

The appointment was announced on Tuesday.

Rukhsa has a background as director of the Murmansk Shipping Company during the 1990s when that company was in charge of operating nuclear icebreakers. Later, he moved to Moscow to take the position as Deputy Minister of Transport. In 2008, Ruksha moved back to Murmansk and became director of Atomflot.

Power battle

Rosatom won a struggle between several Russian government agencies about who should be in charge of developing the geopolitically important Arctic shipping route.

The Ministry of Transport previously ran the Administration of the Northern Sea Route, a sub agency under the Federal Agency on Sea and River Transport.

Last spring, President Putin announced that there was a need for an entity with over-arching responsibility for regional infrastructure development, in addition to running the nuclear icebreaker fleet.

After lengthy discussions, the government agreed to give the main responsibility for the Northern Sea Route to Rosatom. That means Rosatom will control both the budget and prepare proposals on state policy for Arctic, such as development plans for infrastructure.

The Ministry of Transport will still be the regulator to approve the proposals, Rossiskaya Gazeta recently reported.

Infrastructure and shipping

Rosatom is now responsible for granting Russian and foreign vessels rights to sail the Northern Sea Route and to oversee navigation and port calls along the route.

In addition too presenting development strategies for the important shipping route, the new directorate to be headed by Ruksha will also be in charge of interaction with regional authorities of the Russian north, controlling the achievements of different enterprises, implement public functions and services and maintain existing infrastructure like ports.

The directorate will, as Rosatomflot has done over the last 10 years, continue to manage the fleet of nuclear powered icebreakers and the Atomflot service base in Murmansk. For that part of the business, Ruksha has long experience.

Murmansk support 

The appointment is well received in Murmansk where Governor Marina Kovtun in a tweet on Tuesday congratulated Ruksha. “I wholeheartedly congratulate our fellow countryman,” Kovtun writes and continues: “The Northern Sea Route is in reliable hands!”

There are currently four nuclear-powered icebreakers and one nuclear-powered container vessel in operation. Three new powerful LK-60 icebreakers are currently under construction at the Baltic Yard in St. Petersburg. The first of the ships, the Arktika was launched in June 2016. Construction of the two other vessels, the Ural and the Sibir, began in May 2015 and July 2016.

Last December, Novatek’s Yamal LNG started production and soon became one of the main suppliers of goods to be shipped both east and west along the Northern Sea Route. Another important business cooperating with the icebreaker fleet is Nornickel, exporting nickel, copper and platinum from the port of Dudinka by the Yenisei River in Siberia.

The new Northern Sea Route Directorate will be headquartered from Rosatom’s main office in Moscow.