Staunton, Nov. 9 – Temperatures in the Arctic have been much higher than normal this year, but high winds and colder temperatures in parts of the eastern portion of the Northern Sea Route have trapped or delayed “more than 20 ships” there because Russia still lacks the icebreaker capacity to ensure their transit, The Barents Observer reports.
These difficulties call into question Moscow’s plans to begin year-around shipping on the Northern Sea Route next winter and have ships carry as much as 150 million tons of cargo each year along it (thebarentsobserver.com/ru/arktika/2021/11/na-sevmorputi-mozhet-slozhitsya-kriticheskaya-situaciya).
There have been fewer problems in the western portion of the route which has seen higher temperatures and less ice than in the eastern part where temperatures have been somewhat lower and where only one Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker is currently operating. As a result, some ships have been trapped in the ice; and others have had to select alternative routes.
Moscow has touted the rapid growth of its icebreaker fleet, but most are being used in the west rather than the east and in harbor areas rather than in the open seas. And three of its largest ships of this class are either moored in port for upgrades or being kept in reserve rather than used to rescue ships in the east.