The first ship to transit the Northern Sea Route was Yong Sheng of Cosco Shipping which sailed from the Port of Taicang (China) to the Port of Rotterdam back in 2013. The company has been using this Arctic route almost every year since that time, which brings positive results in terms of NSR transit volumes, according to Mr. Kukushkin.

Other large shipping companies come to the lanes of the Northern Sea Route, as well, including Danish giant Maersk, Oldendorff Carriers, Sovcomflot, Gazprom Neft, Norilsk Nickel, Dynagas, Jan De Nul, Hansa Heavy Lift.

Further, new projects are also generating the cargo base of the NSR. Pointing the main plans for the future, Mr. Kukushkin said that VostokCoal is going to launch the project on transportation of coal from the Malolemberovskoye field, while successful pilot shipments of coal from the Yenisey Bay were performed in the winter navigation of 2016-2017. Eastward cargo shipments are expected for the Ministry of Defense and for construction of berthing facilities at the Port of Pevek where FNTPP Akademik Lomonosov is supposed to be deployed.

The most ambitious Arctic project, Yamal LNG, is about to be launched with LNG shipments from Port of Sabetta. The new port will soon welcome new Yamalmax tankers. Of course, they will be assisted to Sabetta (in the Gulf of Ob) by icebreakers.

Modernization of the navigation infrastructure is underway in the water area of the Northern Sea Route, Mr. Kukushkin also highlighted. For example, aids to navigation were earlier powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG), a non-environmentally friendly solution, but by the end of 2015, all RTGs were taken out of the islands and coasts of Russia’s Arctic seas. As of today, aids to navigation are powered by energy produced by wind, sun and new generation batteries developed in compliance with the tough environmental requirements.

In addition, to ensure passage of large capacity vessels with larger draft from the Sannikov Strait (12.8 meters minimum on the recommended lanes), it was necessary to perform hydrographic survey and development of new deepwater lanes north of the Anjou islands as required by S-44 of the International Hydrographic Organization. Now, there is a deepwater lane available there for heavy draft ships.

Surveying works have been also performed this year at the Yenisey and Kolyma rivers as well as at the approaches to the Gulf of Ob in order to ensure safe navigation of vessels taking into consideration the traffic growth, Mr. Kukushkin added.