«It is 100% sure that the Northern Sea Route is no alternative to the Suez Canal”, says Deputy Minister of Transport Viktor Olersky in an interview with Interfax. «If you look at the estimated amounts of shipments and the evident seasonality of the transport corridor, then it becomes perfectly clear that NSR cannot be an alternative to Suez”.
Olersky believes that the maximum cargo transit through NSR will not reach more than 5-10 million tons per year, as long as the route is only open for sailing maximum six months per year.
The future for the Northern Sea Route lies in transportation of oil and gas from Russian Arctic fields, the deputy minister says. When it comes to offshore projects that Russian companies are planning to carry out, then NSR is the only alternative:
“The Northern Sea Route should first and foremost be developed with a reliable transport corridor for export of national cargo.”
Pechenga harbour was never a real project Investors, amongst them President Vladimir Putin’s cousin Igor Putin, in 2012 announced plans to develop an international port in Pechenga Bay, 60 kilometers from the border to Norway. The investors then said that they had prepared a feasibility study, rented 2500 hectares of land and evaluated potential investors, amongst them the Sultan of Oman. Since then, the international port has been mentioned several times in connection with Murmansk Transport Hub.
According to Viktor Olersky, this port will not become a reality in the foreseeable future:
“The international harbor in Pechenga has never existed as a real project in the Ministry of Transportation’s plans – it is just a nice presentation on glossy paper.”
Although the localization of the port is good when it comes to depths and shelter, the project does not look promising at all, Olersky says. The main reason for this is that the existing railroad is in poor condition and in no way capable of handling the cargo amounts predicted in the project.