Russia’s shipments via Arctic to hit record high

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The Northern Sea Route is already a superior alternative to other major global trade waterways, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev says

Russia is actively expanding trade via the Northern Sea Route (NSR), with shipments set to reach an all-time high in 2023, Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Envoy to the Far East, Yuri Trutnev, announced on Friday.

Speaking at a meeting of the Russia-China intergovernmental commission in Beijing, he said that the freight turnover via the country’s Arctic waterway is expected to surge past 36 million tons by the end of the year, marking a ninefold increase since 2015. With numerous infrastructure projects underway, next year’s freight turnover is forecast to grow even further, to upwards of 50 million tons.

Trutnev noted that the NSR is rapidly becoming a major global trade passage and a superior alternative to other shipping corridors, like the Suez and Panama canals.

[The Suez canal] is such a universal global artery, but with one ship stuck across it the canal would be blocked, which definitely is not the case with the NSR,” he stated.

Trutnev noted China’s interest in the development of the NSR, especially with regard to infrastructure projects.

Our Chinese colleagues… are interested because a lot still needs to be done there to make the NSR truly comfortable and safe. New icebreakers and escort vessels need to be built, a satellite fleet, a system of emergency stations must be created,” he explained.

The official added that Russia and China are also currently discussing cooperation on insurance matters, as “one of the problems that currently exists in the development of the NSR is that representatives of unfriendly countries decided to suspend the insurance of ships traversing the waterway.”

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He was referring to sanctions placed on Russian shippers by Western countries in connection with the conflict in Ukraine, which effectively deprived them of access to insurance coverage. He noted that Chinese companies could step in to provide alternative insurance for Russian vessels.

The NSR is a transport corridor in Russia’s exclusive economic zone stretching the entire length of Russia’s Arctic and Far East regions. Russia has been actively developing the corridor for the past eight years. Starting next year, Moscow plans to launch year-round navigation via the route using its current fleet of nuclear icebreakers, which is expected to propel freight turnover that typically is halted from December to May due to thick ice.

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