Towards commercial breakthrough for Northern Sea Route

The Northern Sea Route will see another record season in 2013. (Photo: Atomflot)

Shipping through the melting Arctic looks to be increasing fivefold this summer compared to 2012. 270 vessels have so far received permits to sail along the Northern Sea Route which connects East Asia to Europe via the waters off of Russia’s northern coast.


During the last couple of years there has been a tenfold increase in the number of vessels using the route, which shaves ten days off the time to sail between Rotterdam and Kobe, Japan compared to going through the Suez Canal. In 2012 46 vessels sailed the whole route, compared to 34 in 2011 and only four in 2010.

The NSR administration has received 391 applications to sail the route. 52 refusals have been given, the administration’s web site reads. Not all the vessels will be sailing the whole route between Europe and Asia, as also vessels operating on the western part of the route from Dudinka or Pevek to Murmansk are on the list over permits.

The sailing season started in the end of June with tankers leaving Murmansk for settlements along the coast. The first vessel to sail in transit between Europe and Asia was the bulk carrier “Nordic Orion”, carrying 66.000 tons of iron ore concentrate to a port in China, Rosatomflot’s web site reads.

The total cargo transported on the NSR last year was 1 261 545 tons – a 53 percent increase from 2011, when 820 789 tons was shipped on the route. According to conservative estimates the amount will grow to 1,5 million tons in 2013.

The amount of cargo transported through the NSR is expected to increase considerably within the next decade. “A figure around 10 million tons is absolutely normal, it may even be more”, said Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during the Barents Summit in Kirkenes in the beginning of June.