Fifty percent increase on Northern Sea Route

2013 saw a record in both the number of vessels and the amount of cargo transported along the Northern Sea Route. (Photo: Rosatomflot)

The 2013 navigation season on the Northern Sea Route (NSR) has come to an end. Although the number of vessels taking the Arctic shortcut between Europe and Asia has soared, cargo amounts remain nearly on last year’s level.


71 vessels sailed the whole route between the Bering Strait and the Barents Sea in course of the recently finished summer season of 2013. This is a 54 percent increase compared to 2012, when 46 vessels sailed the route.

In comparison, 34 vessels sailed the whole route in 2011 and only four in 2010.

In spite of the increased number of vessels, the total amount of cargo transported in transit along the NSR has hardly gone up. The total amount this year was 1,355,897 tons – only 7.5 percent more than in 2012, when 1,261, 545 tons was carried through the NSR. Conservative estimates had suggested the amount of cargo would grow to at least 1.5 million tons.

Nearly twice as much cargo was sent eastwards than westwards, according to the Northern Sea Route (NSR) Information Office’s web site.

According to the Northern Sea Route Administration’s web site there are still vessels operating along the northern coast of Russia. On December 2nd seven different vessels were out sailing, most of them in the Sabetta area, where Russia is constructing one of the biggest ports in the Russian Arctic.

Russia has high hopes that the amount of cargo transported through the NSR will 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 June.