Russia sets out stringent new rules for foreign ships on the Northern Sea Route

Russia would require foreign ships with provide detailed information well in advance of any voyage, and take on a Russian maritime pilot.

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - March 8, 2019
A general view shows ships moored in the Northern Fleet’s Arctic headquarters of Severomorsk, Russia July 30, 2016. (Oleg Kuleshov / Reuters)

The Russian government has elaborated a set of rules for foreign naval vessels sailing on the Northern Sea Route, according to Izvestia. The newspaper has obtained a copy of the document that states that all vessels are obliged to comply.

According to the new rules, a foreign state must send a notification about a voyage at least 45 days ahead of its start, and include the name of the ship, its objective, route and period of sailing, as well as ship characteristics such as length, width, deadweight, draft and type of engine power and the name of the ship’s captain.

Ships will be required to have on board a Russian maritime pilot.

In case the voyage is not conducted in line with the regulations, Russia will have the right to take extraordinary measures including its forced halt, arrest and — in extreme cases — elimination, Izvestia writes.

The regulations reportedly have a prime target of keeping control over local environmental protection and commercial shipping.

According to the newspaper, the new regulations are made following “the more active naval operations in the Arctic of various foreign countries.”

In September 2019, the French Navy’s new offshore support and assistance vessel Rhône unexpectedly transited the Russian Arctic route, starting in Tromsø, Norway on Sept. 1 and ending in Dutch Harbor, Alaska on Sept. 17.

“Sailors, the BSAH Rhône of the @NationalMarine has just crossed the Bering Strait! Leaving from Tromsö (Norway) on 1 September, it will reach Dutch Harbor (Aleutians, Alaska) on 17 September. Bravo Zulu to his crew,” Chief of Staff of the French Navy Admiral Christophe Prazuck said in a tweet.

Judging from Izvestia, the new set of NSR rules is primarily aimed at the ships from the United States and other NATO nations.

Russia has over the last years significantly strengthened its military presence in the Arctic. A series of new bases have been built and upgraded and new advance military hardware installed in the area.

Just few days after the French vessel Rhône passed through the area the Northern Fleet for the first time test launched its mobile coastal defense system Bastion in the Kotelny base in the remote New Siberian Islands. The S300 missile system has also been deployed in the region. New air bases are part of the picture, as well, and the Nagurskoye air base in Franz Josef Land will now be capable of handling year-round flights with heavy aircraft.