- Preparations for Shtokman must be intensified

- Norwegian ports can handle base operations for the Shtokman development much more efficient than Russian ports, leader of Norwegian Barents Secretariat Rune Rafaelsen says. He now urges Norwegian authorities to intensify the development of ports and infrastructure in the northern part of Norway.

Rune Rafaelsen, Norwegian Barents SecretariatThis week the Dutch company Fugro chose the border town of Kirkenes as their base port for drilling operations on the Shtokman field. Secretariat leader Rune Rafaelsen at the Norwegian Barents Secretariat says this clearly indicates the possibilities and advantages for Norwegian ports and local companies to take part in the development of the Shtokman gas field.

– This operation underlines once again the importance of further strengthening Norwegian logistics directed towards the Russian market, Mr. Rafaelsen says.

There is a potential on the Norwegian side to take an active part in the Shtokman development, but the shortages in Finnmark’s infrastructure hinders many companies to fully utilize this potential. Rafaelsen is especially missing the lack of efforts made to improve Norway’s competitiveness against Russian ports.

–The Dutch firm is one of many which in the future will discover that operations in the Shtokman project conducted from the Norwegian side is far more efficient than from Russian port. It is vital that Norwegian authorities and companies recognise this as soon as possible, and do the necessary preparations, says Rafaelsen.

Prestigious for Russia

Managing director of the Norwegian consulting company Rambøll Storvik, Rune Rautio, says to BarentsObserver that the Russians will have to find a solution to their bureaucratic customs regulations and improve the efficiency of Murmansk Port.

– Gazprom has clearly stated that Murmansk will be the main base for the Shtokman project, and will never allow that Kirkenes or any other Norwegian town take over this role. Still, the Shtokman project is so large that it is natural that there will be some activity in Norwegian ports as well.

Rautio says that the criticised efficiency of Murmansk Port will improve once the Murmansk Transport Hub development project is finished. This is a 12.5 billion EUR investment project, which will modernize the entire infrastructure of the Murmansk area. It will probably make Murmansk Port more attractive to foreign companies taking part in the Shtokman project, but still there are the problems with customs declaration. Rautio believes that the Russian will find a solution to make customs more efficient too.

– The Shtokman project is so prestigious for Gazprom and the Russian authorities and it is of vital importance for the completion of the Shtokman project to have international participation. It will take some time, but I am certain that Russian authorities will change their rigid customs regulations. They have to do that, says Rautio.

Container shipment

Rune Rafaelsen says that now is the time for Norwegian harbours to position themselves for international companies which are ready to take part in the Shtokman development. Rafaelsen has several times argumented for a full infrastructure development of Kirkenes harbour, with a large container shipment area and better road connections both to the rest of Finnmark, to Finland in the south and not least the main road towards Murmansk.

The 15 kilometre road between Kirkenes and the Norwegian-Russian border is in very bad shape, and local companies have for many years demanded a total reconstruction of the road. Still the Norwegian Government has given no indications that there will be any extra money for this reconstruction.