Sunday, November 25, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Passages, Cargo on Northern Sea Route Up Dramatically in 2012

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 25 – Forty-six ships have sailed north of the Russian Federation on the Northern Sea Route in the Arctic Ocean this year, 12 more than in 2011 and 42 more than in 2010, and these ships have carried 1.3 million tons of cargo, 53 percent more than shipping along this route last year.

            According to a report by “Barents Observer,” 25 vessels sailed east from Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, or Baydratskaya Bay, while 21 sailed west in the opposite direction. Two ships are still in transit, and their arrival will boost the final totals for this season still further (

            More than 60 percent of the tonnage carried consisted of petroleum products, with the next largest share made up of iron ore and coal. No supertankers were involved, but the route is becoming profitable because it is established to save “up to 20 days” compared to shipping from Japan to Scandinavia through the Suez Canal.

            This increased use of the Northern Sea Route reflects the impact of global warming on the Arctic and the reduction in the amount of ice coverage during the summers, but officials and experts meeting in Moscow last week warned that global warming is reducing food production in adjoining parts of the Russian North and may threaten the indigenous peoples there (

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