The Northern Sea Route Is Not Only for Sanctions

NEW – July 18, 2022

“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” – there is such an evangelical expression, it means “each day has enough of its own worries”, or, in the sense, “solve problems as they come”.

Now all economic thought is willy-nilly swirling around the problem of sanctions, like a fly around a chandelier, but is this correct? Many enterprises and investments have a long life cycle, and even terrible political events against their background are one-day events.

So the current modernisation of the Northern Sea Route will bear fruit, maybe in the next century.

It’s not just the gas carriers and tankers that are currently traveling from Russia to China, and ships with Norilsk nickel and palladium.

Speaking about the phenomenon of China, erudite Western economists who are not engaged in politics note that in the last 30 centuries of human history, China has consistently been the world’s economic leader. The exception was about a century and a half ago, when China was defeated by England in the Opium Wars. The state has been transformed several times since then, and when the internal turmoil ended, China regained its rightful place at the top of the economic hierarchy. It is the main commodity producer in the world. That is why the transport corridor connecting this giant with another important subject, Europe (and with us as a European country), is important. It is especially important that this corridor is completely ours.

Yes, the Northern Sea Route is not cheap – it is difficult (and therefore expensive) to navigate ships along it; it is expensive to maintain a fleet of icebreakers; bases along this great road are not cheap, and it’s not possible to do without them; difficult communication: the signal from geostationary satellites, the closer to the poles, the worse it gets. Yes, in the end, military measures are also needed from all sorts of well-wishers who only want to “help”.

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According to Andrey Belousov (2021), the project will cost 716 billion rubles.

But all this is justified by the same economy: this route is shorter and faster than the southern sea routes around Eurasia, and sea transport is significantly cheaper than any land or air transport in terms of ton-kilometer. Although it is not the fastest.

The “northern passage to Asia” has been thought of since the 17th century and developed in parts since at least the 18th. The first trip along it in one navigation on the Sibiryakov steamer was 90 years ago, and at the same time a plan for the development and arrangement of the future route was sketched, which in general terms corresponds to the current one. If the Northern Sea Route modernisation program is completed and commercial navigation becomes year-round, then all the previous centuries-old activities there can be considered as a preparatory stage for the main event.

So, the main points of the program, as it’s possible to understand:

– basing points for the icebreaker fleet, back in the 30s they spoke about the need for them at least near Taimyr and in the Chukchi Sea.

– a railway line along the coast (during the war years, by the way, it was built right up to Norilsk, but without bridges over giant rivers, trains were transported by ferries or over ice).

– reliable communication system.

– creation of hub ports for transshipment to ice-class vessels, which will go along the NSR, or, as is said now, NSTC (Northern Sea Transport Corridor). They must be created at both ends of the Atlantic and Pacific Routes.

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But it should be understood that not only we and China are interested in a short route from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic – but also Alaska, Korea, and Japan (by the way, historical voyages along this route had Japan as the final destination for a number of reasons). We are talking about the ports of Rotterdam, Hamburg, Le Havre, Southampton and Copenhagen, and in Asia – Shanghai, Busan, Tianjin and Yokohama.

Although for the United States, which now controls the main sea routes, the Northern Sea Route is rather undesirable, but the project, I repeat, is designed for many years, and something in the world may change. Perhaps the western regions of the United States and Canada will also use this route.

There is, of course, a danger that the Asian giants will not be so interested in the economy of Western Europe, but we will still hope for the best.

Andrey Parshev

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