All news

Arctic’s development stimulates upgrading of Northern Sea Route ports — experts

Russia's Khabarovsk Region has a unique geographic position

TASS, July 23. Infrastructures of the Northern Sea Route ports are in unsatisfactory conditions, and their improvement is stimulated by growing development of the Arctic shelf’s resources and by presence of the military in the region. Experts and officials told TASS about motivations for development of the Northern Sea Route’s ports.

The upcoming International Far East Marine Salon, which Russia’s Vladivostok will host on July 26-28, will have a panel to discuss the Northern Sea Route (NSR) growth points and port infrastructures. Besides, development of the Northern Sea Route is a regular topic at the annual Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.

Necessary upgrade

Practically all ports, with the exception for Dudinka in the Krasnoyarsk Region, require upgrade, as their current conditions hinder the goods’ deliveries, which take place in summer, Dariana Maximova of the Northern-Eastern Federal University told TASS.

"The existing system of NSR ports cannot offer the infrastructures to make smooth supplies of vitally important goods, fuel and food, practically every year the deliveries are not made in time," she said. "All expectations are connected with NSR’s growing capacity and the Arctic’s resource potential. The plans are NSR will serve transportation of the Arctic natural resources to the European and Asian markets. However, Russia cannot develop the Arctic on its own, without outside players, it is necessary to attract investments, including foreign investments."

Tiksi in Yakutia is a key port on the Northern Sea Route. Initially, its capacity was projected at 600,000 tonnes, the regional Ministry of Transport told TASS. However, the cargo flow has been declining, and nowadays the port serves local shipments only - food products and construction materials. "Due to the declined cargo flow (from 2010, the port processes up to 10-15 thousand tonnes), only 3-5% of the port’s capacities are used," the ministry said.

The port’s biggest problem is the worn-out equipment, the ministry added.

The Northern Sea Route continues the Lena River basin’s routes, which are used actively for deliveries of necessary cargo to Yakutia’s Arctic regions on the rivers Yana, Indigirka, Kolyma, Anabar and Olenek. The river-sea-class vessels deliver about 400,000 tonnes, and about 100,000 tonnes come every year from Murmansk and Arkhangelsk - mostly fuel. "Yakutia’s government eyes the Tiksi port as a base to manage NSR’s Eastern Part," the ministry said.

Renovation of NSR’s another port, Pevek, failed as the contractor breached the undertaken obligations. The port’s Captain Oleg Klyuikov told TASS the reconstruction of two piers began in 2016, and as the works stopped the port can use only one of the three piers. A new contractor will have to continue and finish the renovation works.

Developing infrastructures

According to Konstantin Gribov of the Far Eastern Federal University, development of the Arctic and its resources on the shelf, as well as more active presence of the military stimulate renovation of NSR’s infrastructures. "First of all, it would be necessary to restore what has been there: Pevek and Tiksi," the expert said. "This is what the military have been doing, they have cleaned Franz Josef Land, other areas, and have deployed the contingent there. Thus, one of the reasons to develop the infrastructures is because the military are there actively. They also need bases, they need infrastructures."

Any improvement of infrastructures requires investments, and here foreign partners could participate, Dariana Maximova said. "Russia does not limit foreign vessels in using NSR, but regular voyages require infrastructures, and restoring those requires money, including, possibly, foreign investments," she said. "Many have demonstrated interest in NSR, and first of all those are… China, South Korea, and Japan."

A member of the State Commission on the Arctic’s Development, Mikhail Grigoryev, told TASS development of the port infrastructures depend and should be related to cargo flows, and in this approach plans should rely on projects to develop mineral resources - thus, the main infrastructures there should be aimed at providing deliveries of necessary materials and equipment for construction and further work, as well as for shipping the products.

How NSR could continue

At the same time, to have the Northern Sea Route work effectively, the growing cargo flow along the Route should access the Baikal-Amur and the Trans-Siberian railways, and further on - other Russian regions and foreign destinations. The base ports for that would be Vanino and Sovetskaya Gavan, the Khabarovsk Region’s Deputy Minister of Industry and Transport Artem Serdyukov said.

"They are on the mainland, in the Tatar Strait’s central part, where meet all the marine and land routes," he told TASS. "The ports have access to the Trans-Siberian and the Baikal-Amur railways, and along the Lidoga-Vanino road they are connected with Russia’s highway network. This transport-industrial hub has vast territories for further development of the sea port capacities and infrastructures."

As those territories enjoy the regime of Free Port of Vladivostok, many residents have chosen to come there, and implementation of their projects would require construction of terminals to upload these and other cargoes, he continued.

"The Khabarovsk Region has a unique geographic position," he said. "On the sea shore line, which is more than 2,500km, there are ports Vanino, Sovetskaya Gavan, De-Kastri, Okhotsk, Nikolayevsk-on-Amur. The Region’s role grows with the growing inter-regional cargo turnover and the export-import relations between Russia and the Asia-Pacific Region countries.".