Representatives of the eight Arctic powers, including Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland, are attending an international conference on board the Yamal nuclear-powered vessel in the Laptev Sea. The participants in the conference are discussing the development of the Northern Sea Route for strategic stability and equal partnership in the Arctic. Russia is going to reiterate its intention to follow the international law while implementing various projects in the Arctic.
The development of the Northern Sea Route was also on the agenda of a conference in Naryan-Mar, the administrative center of Nenets Autonomous District, on Saturday. Speaking at the conference, Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev called for specific measures to modernize transport infrastructure of the Arctic:
"The existing navigation and hydro-meteorological system in the Arctic secures the effective functioning of its western sector but falls short of guaranteeing a high efficiency in its eastern sector, where we have most of our potential resources. Fffective development of the region requires strategic planning within the framework of the Russian government’s policies for the Arctic."
One fifth of the territory of the Russian Federation is above the Arctic Circle. The Far North region accounts for 95% of gas, 75% of oil and the bulk of nickel, tin, platinum, gold and diamond reserves. Experts estimate oil and gas reserves at more than 100 billion tons, which is one third of all the oil and gas reserves in the world.
The Northern Sea Route is thus bound to become a major transportation waterway over the next few years. Nikolai Patrushev comments:
"According to government estimates, the Northern Sea Route’s cargo traffic might exceed 5 million tons in 2012. Experts predict a more than tenfold increase in navigation via the Northern Sea Route. The Northern Sea Route will guarantee the shortest passage from countries of the Pacific Rim to Western Europe, and it is vital in securing the transit of Arctic-produced oil and gas into Europe and Central Russia."
By 2020, the Northern Sea Route is set to account for up to 64 million tons of cargo, and for up to 85 million ten years later.
To this end, governments will have to upgrade the Arctic fleet. 153 of 196 ice-class Arctic cargo vessels are registered in Russia.
The next step will be to build icebreakers. At present, there are 6 nuclear and 4 diesel icebreakers plying along the Northern Sea Route. Four more icebreakers - one nuclear and three diesel - will be built over the next five years. Nikolai Patrushev says that governments should introduce specific legislation to regulate navigation through the Northern Sea Route:
"The government should adjust its tax and investment policies to meet the specific living conditions in the Arctic."
A bill currently under consideration in the government is set to regulate navigation along the Northern Sea Route, protect the countries’ interests in the Arctic and make the Northern Sea Route accessible for all carriers concerned.