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Northern Sea Route to serve 105 million tonnes of cargo after 2030

Smooth work of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) requires enforcement of the Russian icebreaker fleet, expert says

ST. PETERSBURG, December 14. /TASS/. The Northern Sea Route will serve growing amounts of cargo over the coming decade, and, after 2030, its capacity would be comparable with the total capacity of the Russian northern ports, the United Shipbuilding Corporation’s Vice President on civil shipbuilding Evgeny Zagorodniy said in a speech at the "Materials and Technologies for the Arctic" international conference.

"The base scenario says that by 2030 the cargo, served by the Northern Sea Route, would be up to 70 million tonnes, and later on, scientists say, it may grow to 104-105 million tonnes," he said. "Noteworthy, the sea terminals’ total annual capacity of Sabetta, Chaika and other sea ports by 2028 would be over 117 million tonnes."

Building up the icebreaker fleet

Smooth work of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) requires enforcement of the Russian icebreaker fleet, he continued. Deputy Head of the Department for Shipbuilding and Marine Equipment of the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade Konstantin Antsiferov shared this opinion.

"The problem of the icebreaker fleet’s growing potential is very acute. Under the strategy for the shipbuilding sector’s development, Russia to 2035 should build a series of 22220 icebreakers. The series’ main icebreaker - The Arctic - will join the fleet in 2019, the next one - The Siberia - in 2020, and The Urals - in 2021," the official said. "They will solve the problem of year-round navigation in the Arctic’s western part."

Russia, he continued, should also get rid of its depending on foreign equipment. First of all, regarding vessels to transport the liquefied natural gas.

"A big problem in development of the transport infrastructures is the dependence on foreign producers of tankers for transportation of liquefied natural gas," he said. "In this sphere, we must have a technology breakthrough."

New materials for the Arctic

Construction of new vessels for work in the Arctic conditions, experts say, requires results from scientists on new super-strong and frost-resistant materials. Consequently, metallurgical companies face the task of using innovations.

"The tasks in shipbuilding will keep busy metallurgical plants, as the sector would require every year about 200,000 tonnes of shipbuilding steel, and the share of frost-resistant steels suitable for the special Arctic conditions would be only growing," the ministry’s representative said. "Besides, the share of frost-resistant welding materials would be increasing, too."

New super-strong materials are necessary not only for the Russian Northern shipbuilding, but also for other sectors of the North economy. New alloys are of high demand in pipeline construction. Director of the Prometei Research Institute (a part of the Kurchatov Institute) Alexei Oryshchenko presented at the conference unique alloys, which the Institute had made and which are used already.

"Having this steel, we can produce pipes of any diameter. The resource [of pipelines] is longer now. The gas and oil pipelines, made of old materials [work] for five-six years. For these steels, we say the resource is to 25 years and later on it would grow to 50 years - thus, we are speaking about the highest reliability in the world," he said, presenting new kinds of steel.

Fuel for the Arctic

At the same time, experts say, as the Northern Sea Route develops, the list of transported cargo would change accordingly. Presently, the biggest share of the cargo transported along NSR is the supplies for winter to the North’s residents - fuel and food. The Kurchatov Institute’s President Mikhail Kovalchuk says research results in nuclear energy and biofuel generation will offer solutions to cut within the coming decade the Northern regions’ dependence on summer supplies of fuel for upcoming winter.

"We know new technologies of receiving biofuel from algae. You may grow [in Northern areas] algae and process them into biodiesel - realistically this may stop the practice of delivering [fuel] for upcoming winters," he said.

According to him, the Institute’s specialists working on bioenergy, develop actively the technology of producing biodiesel from algae. When asked about the time this technology may cut the dependence on fuel supplies, he said it was a matter of next decade.

The Materials and Technologies for the Arctic international conference is working in St. Petersburg on December 13 and 14. It features leading experts in materials, shipbuilding and energy.