Russian Arctic shipping is up by 430 percent in 3 years

LNG shipments account for most of the growth.

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - March 2, 2020
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The ice-class tanker Shturman Skuratov is one of the ships carrying oil from Gazprom Neft’s Novy Port field in Yamal. (Atle Staalesen / The Independent Barents Observer)

The volume of goods being delivered to and from ports on the Arctic shipping route has never been close to the current level.

According to Nikolay Monko, the Acting Director of the the Northern Sea Route Administration, a total of 31.5 million tons of goods was shipped on the route in 2019. That is an increase of 56.7 percent from 2019, and 150 percent from 2018.

Over the last three years, Northern Sea Route volumes have grown by more than 430 percent. The ship traffic on the route is now several times higher than in the Soviet period. The Soviet-era record was set in 1986 when 6.455 million tons was shipped in the area.

Liquefied natural gas constitutes the lion’s share of the goods volumes.

A total of 20.5 million tons of LNG was sent out from natural gas terminal Sabetta in Yamal, Nikolay Monko told TASS. A further 1.5 million tons, in the form of ore, was shipped from Dudinka, the metal company Nornickel’s port on the Yenisey River, and 7.7 million tons were shipped from Gazprom Neft’s Novy Port oil field, news agency Korabel reports.

Transit shipments constitutes only a minor share of the goods.

In 2019, a total of 697,200 tons was shipped from the east to the west or vice versa on the route, an increase of 42 percent from 2018. A total of 37 ships last year made transit voyages across the remote and icy Arctic route.

The Northern Sea Route includes the waters between the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya and the Bering Strait, a distance of about 5,600 kilometers (about 3,500 miles). It is a significant shortcut between markets in Europe and Asia, but is covered by ice for long stretches of the year and ships need an icebreaker escort to maneuver through much of the route.