Staunton, Sept. 18 – Vladimir Putin’s plans to expand trade on the Northern Sea Route are being undercut by problems in all the sectors his numbers depend upon including but not limited to cutbacks in production of bulk products, problems with the construction of ships capable of sailing the Arctic route, and environmental issues, Maks Veselov says.
And while Moscow commentator continue to suggest the Kremlin leader’s goals will be met, ever more officials working on the route and experts studying it have concluded that neither the short-term goals for 60 million tons of cargo in 2024 or 110 million tons in 2035 are anything but “utopian dreams,” the Babr journalist says (babr24.com/kras/?IDE=218503).
Veselov draws that conclusion on the basis of a close examination of the situation in Krasnoyarsk Kray, one of the eight Russian regions with Arctic territories and thus deeply involved with all aspects of the development of the Northern Sea Route. Everywhere one looks, he says, there are serious problems.
First of all, the three main bulk cargos Moscow planned to form a major part of the shipping program – nickel, oil, and coal – have all had their production targets seriously reduced over the last several years. Because they are producing less, the amount of cargo that they will feed into the Northern Sea Route will fall as well.
Second, Russian shipbuilding for the route is way behind schedule. Indeed, in the fall of 2020, Rosatom which oversees this part of the project, called for cutting Putin’s 2024 goal of 80 million tons by 25 percent to 60 million because Russia simply won’t have enough carrying capacity to ship more.
And third, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the fragility of the Arctic environment is such that Moscow won’t be able to ignore the dangers that spills and other forms of contamination present. Moreover, as the region warms, there will be subsidence form the melting of the permafrost and infrastructure collapse.
Russia will be able to increase the amount of cargo on the Northern Sea Route in the coming years, Veselov says, but not by anything like what Putin has promised and his pro-Kremlin spokespersons imagine. And it is not impossible that over the next several years, growth will be significantly lower than many now imagine and plan for.