Part 1 Russian Navy frigates – the navy’s mainstay LINK
Part 2 Russian Navy small combat ships – versatility & lethality. LINK
Part 3 – The Russian Navy submarine rescue fleet LINK
In this brief, I will present to you, the main elements underpinning the Russian Arctic presence and what it represents for the Russian Navy. If you just want to read the aspects relating to the Russian military and navy, you can jump to Section B.
Let me start with a Newsweek article from 1 February. This is how it starts: “Russia has sent ships to the subarctic waters of the Barents Sea to practice anti-missile combat on on their first artillery fire drill of the year.”LINK:
The article continues with:” The Kremlin has laid claim over the resource-rich North Pole, challenging rival claims made by the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark, all of whom also have territory in the vicinity.” In other words, there is a geopolitical tussle over the Arctic, but what is not said, all of these competing claims are done under international law, mostly under the auspices of the UN Law of the Sea framework. A case is the Lomonosov Ridge, which passes through the North Pole, contested by Canada, Denmark & Russia, over the question if the area is an extension of its continental shelf. LINK
I take a jaundiced view of the Newsweek article, since it misses to shed light on the real context for Russian presence in the Arctic. It also what I call a soft ‘sob story’ about how the West is unprepared compared to Russia, to deflect from their own inadequacies. How dare they re-establish a military presence in their own sovereignty, to the detriment of the West? How dare they have more Arctic bases than the other four Arctic states?
The Newsweek is part of a wider narrative to magnify the routine actions of the Russian military. In this case, it also downplayed something quite important to understand: the context for current Russian Arctic governance.
A. Introduction – Setting the context
The Russian Arctic region is approximately 6000 miles stretch of coastline and numerous islands from the Barents Sea, Kara Sea to the Laptev Sea inclusive. Add in 18 Arctic ports, with infrastructure upgrades being carried out or planned, some are as transhipments ports for significant natural resources extracted in the interior of Siberia. An increasing hive of activity in the Arctic is taking place, but at a slow pace, principally on land and offshore in the Western Arctic region.
MAP OF ARCTIC – EEZ Russia
Given the huge size of Russian maritime sovereignty, territorial waters & Economic Exclusive Zone,(EEZ), as established under the UN Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),as well the continental shelf, it is understandable that Russia wishes to assert its sovereign rights first & foremost, especially since it had lost the ability to hold this status in the 90s. Secondly, the Russian military is currently expanding its focus northwards and eastwards, to carry out tasks, as outlined in the Military Doctrine, Section III 33 (s) “to protect national interests of the Russian Federation in the Arctic region.” Thirdly, given the geopolitical tensions, viz a viz the US and NATO, the fact that Russia is re-establishing a military presence, is to project its position as a strong regional power. Essentially, the Arctic was a weak spot in Russian military defence, that required serious attention.
Military and naval activities in the Arctic are also referenced in the “The Development Strategy of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation and of the National Security Protection for the Period up to 2020”;(LINK)
Natural resources extraction
In the Western Arctic seas alone, Rosneft estimated an 17.3 billion TOE of the total recoverable oil and gas resources. For the Eastern Arctic continental shelf areas, the total recoverable oil and gas resources are estimated at 12.7 billion TOE.
All of in is either in territorial waters or mostly within the Exclusive Economic EEZ. This seems to be an alien concept for certain Western elites & journalists, since they probably don’t understand how UNCLOS works anyhow. If a foreign entity wishes to explore, exploit maritime mineral resources, then it has to do so with the specific permission of the relevant Russian authorities.
Rapidly changing offshore technology will eventually enable Russia to explore and exploit further offshore, under their jurisdiction, although there are also big safety implications as well as serious environmental concerns. Yet that doesn’t seem to stop the US, EU from wishfully wanting to exploit the potential oil resources under the seabed, but only seemingly under their own terms. Hence the resulting high-level political need to malign Russia’s potential interests in the Arctic. I think Western pundits tend to take a giant leap forward in seeing what are they interpret as the Kremlin’s intentions over the North Pole claims and skip over the mundane aspects.
Most big Arctic projects are actually 1. closer to land and 2. are only just starting to become operational. Oil and gas reserves are still being discovered in places that much easier to develop and manage. LINK
The Sabetta (Yamal) plant LNG project is an example of where Russia is actually just taking its first tiny steps in taping into its vast natural resources. Officially launched in December 2017, this $27 billion project is an international joint venture between Russia’s Novatek, the French energy company Total, and China’s National Petroleum Corporation. It is likely to have a total output of 16.5 million metric tons of LNG)per year, by phase 3 in 2019. Gas is extracted from the South Tambey field, first discovered in 1974. LINK
Commercial shipping route – the Northern Sea Route and beyond.
Siberia sea routes
The number of commercial vessels and overall Arctic shipping traffic will gradually increase in the future because of the significant changes in the climate and weather conditions. The Arctic is often mooted in the media as the next viable shipping mega-highway, with principal 3 routes. One of which at times goes through Russian territorial waters & EEZ. The Northern Sea Route (NSR), or the North East Passage, runs along the Russian coast from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Kara, Laptev, East Siberian, and Chukchi Seas, having the potential to significantly shorten voyage times between European and Far Eastern ports. The exact routing is variable and depends on the time of the year, ice conditions, and the size and draft of the ship in question.
The NSR is the principle shipping route between Franz Josef Land, (Cape Dezhnev, Kara Gate) in the west and Cape Zhelaniya to the east. The NSR is roughly 40% shorter than taking the Suez Canal from Europe to Asia, however the predicted sailing season in the next decade or so, is to remain around 4 to 5 months of relatively ice-free conditions. So the NSR won’t compete with the Suez Canal Route, certainly not for another 25-50 years.
It has to be remembered that safe navigation on various NSR ‘lanes’ Is complicated by extreme changeable weather and uncertain ice-cover conditions even during the summer period. So it is not a soft option for ship operators to consider, especially the remoteness and existing lack of support infrastructure which is needed as a vital back-up & reassurance, such as Search And Rescue (SAR), port bunkering & repairs facilities. 6 Emergency response centres operate in the Arctic. LINK
Nowadays, some commercial ships do use the NSR and most traffic tend to be ice-classed for domestic voyages along the coastline. The NSR is never going to be suitable for the container shipping’s tight port turnarounds and ‘just-in-time’ scheduling. Anyway, given the increasing size of containerships, transiting through the NSR simply won’t be an option due to very shallow straits. The winner is the growth in internal “destinational traffic” within Russia, maritime trade activities such as the Norilsk mineral shipments. Another winner, will be the dedicated fleet of LNG tankers, delivering Yamal LNG to Europe and Asia. LINK
When commercial navigation is permitted to sail through the NSR, there are four principle ‘heavy’ Russian sea-going icebreakers available for ice convoy duties, to ensure navigation safety: the nuclear-powered fleet are: ‘Vaygach’, ‘Yamal’, «Taymyr» and ’50 Let Pobedy’. The oldest of the Atomflot fleet is 28 years old and the youngest is 10 years old, so partial replacements have been planned and under construction. There are nearly 20 non-nuclear icebreakers as well, some are in government service.
Russia is modernising its icebreaker fleet as part of its efforts to enhance its Arctic presence. The ‘Arctika’ was launched in 2016, while the ‘Siberia’ and ‘Ural’ are likely to be commissioned in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
Russia has allocated $75 million on Northern Sea Route development between 2018 and 2020, and it has stated to invest in the necessary coastal infrastructure, such as SAR stations and satellites systems for the Arctic. These will be vital if the NSR is to remain a viable & attractive route for potentially increasing shipping traffic. Rosatom is mooted as likely to be responsible for the NSR management and also investment. (Bellona Nov 17) China, South Korea, Japan have certainly shown a keen interest in the possibility of using the NSR more extensively. Even Singapore and India are showing interest in this route. For instance, take the case of China, COSCO did its first ‘test-run” through the NSR back in 2012. Recently, China has published a policy paper on a “Polar Silk Road”, eyeing up further presence in the frozen north. LINK
Side note: An US article states that Russia has 40 icebreakers—in service with 11 currently in production. A bit off-the mark, when the real number is lower, with planned construction included, (those in Baltic service or port icebreakers are in this figure too). However, the US itself just has the ‘Polar Star’, that is operational for Antarctic duties, since the other one is out of action, leaving just one more in service. If melting Arctic sea-ice cover does shrink considerably in the next 50 years, this is will mean that commercial ships will ultimately opt for using the Trans-Polar Route rather than the more complicated, shallower NSR. This route is largely outside Russian EEZ waters, so in the long run, Russia will not necessarily benefit from it, in the way some media & politicians are presenting it. Russia could benefit from the TPR, if it developed a suitable port hub on the Barents Sea coastline, along with the necessary rail infrastructure.
B. Russian military presence in the Arctic
It is only in paragraph 5 of the Newsweek article, does it mention that “ the Russian navy is hard pressed to recover some Soviet-era capabilities in Russia’s vast northern coastline.” In other words, regain the ability to monitor the NSR, safeguard shipping, prevent military intrusions and protect its marine natural resources.
At a time when NATO is increasingly encroaching on Russia’s northern borders and actively carrying out exercises in the Western Arctic, Russia has been countering this with a number of specific exercises in the last couple of years, including a combination of naval units, marines, airborne troops and air assets. A new Arctic brigade was created in the region of Murmansk, LINK and another located in the Arkangelsk region. Emphasis has been placed on mobility of dedicated units trained for Arctic operations. As such inter-service cooperation, mobility and coordination is therefore crucial to effective Arctic military operations in the Arctic. These exercises are routine and short in duration, but for some reason Newsweek decided to pick the first naval one of this year, to make some kind of point.
Given that the overall Russian military modernisation programs are in fact quite modest, (as partly explained in Part 1 & 2 on Russian frigates/corvettes), the intention isn’t to start an arms race or aggressive military presence in the Arctic, as it is suggested in some US-NATO circles. It is aimed at regaining some previously abandoned bases & setting up a couple of outposts. More importantly, specific military Arctic programs are more about upgrading the Russian military capabilities, either with upgraded equipment or as complete high-tech 21st century package. Similarly new equipment is also being provided to Russian border guards and Coastguard.
What irks me is the obfuscation by some who see Russia as trying to reclaim its lost Empire, by highlighting the military role and playing down or avoiding the fact that some the military activities in the Arctic have a dual-role. Examples of dual-roles include Search And Rescue, (SAR) operations, air & sea space surveillance, provision of navigation safety, and emergency response (natural and man-made). Navigation monitoring, SAR & deep-water port facilities are essential for commercial shipping, and more importantly, essential in attracting more shipping traffic along the NSR.
Air & sea defence perimeter
Russia also has on paper six military bases, 18 ports and 13 airbases above the Arctic circles, nearly all date from Soviet times. Part of this chain of defence includes installed S-400 long-range surface to air missiles batteries. Air Defence radar sites are being put into operation, to fill in a crucial gap, which is not surprising when you consider that in the last week alone, four reconnaissance aircraft were tracked close to Russian Arctic airspace.
Two significant brand-new permanent Russian military bases have been set up: – Franz Josef land – known as Arkticheskiy Trilistnik or ‘Arctic Trefoil’. Operational since 2017. LINK
Likely to have air defence radar and surface to air missile batteries.- Kotelny, known as the Severny Klever (Northern Clover), operational since 2015.LINK
Given that there were practically no military facilities along the NSR for decades, it now fills a gap in air and sea surveillance of both ends of a potentially viable & strategic shipping route. Other Soviet era military facilities are being revamped and being re-actived as part of a chain defence across the Russian Arctic.
Some Western pundits like to call this military presence ‘posturing’, but personally I’d call it ‘safeguarding’ assets from potential threats, since they are on land, as such are on sovereign land, beings the ‘eyes’ over territorial seas and the EEZ. The actual physical permanent military footprint is tiny compared to the overall national number of equipment and manpower.
The Russian Navy in the Arctic The Northern Sea Fleet has been making regular voyages, (mostly along the NSR), to the Arctic since 2012, as patrols and also as a delivery service for the construction and running of the Arctic land bases. Similarly, countless naval deployments and exercises have been done in the region, the most recent taking place much farther out and for longer periods in the eastern part of the Arctic.
Kalibrs in the Arctic – a Game changer?
Over the coming decade, the Russian navy will extend their coverage & range over the whole Russian Arctic EEZ. Military icebreaking patrol ships are being constructed as part of the plan, with 2 specially designed Arctic patrol ships, (RBTH May 2017) LINK
The ship is Project 23550, ‘Ivan Papanin’, which is unique in its dual role as a combat ship and also lead icebreaker for other ships. The aft of the ship will have a dedicated space in which containers can be removed and switched over, thereby changing the type of weapon or equipment modules carried by a warship. Thus, a naval ship is not limited to one particular mission during its lifetime.
Hence, the use of ISO type containers, (TLCs), as opposed to the fixed VLS configuration, is hinted at within this new Arctic warship build, with the modular ‘Open Stern’ concept. Its’s potential Kalibr-carrying capacity is likely to be same as for a Buyan-M class corvette, but with the option of two modular missile containers, as part of the ‘Open Stern’ concept.
It nevertheless shows a radical departure from traditional concepts of Arctic patrol ships, especially for icebreakers. This new ‘feature’ alone has made the US Coastguard commandant sit up and pay attention to what being is projected for Arctic, by raising the alarm and asking for more appropriate resources. (Cat – Pigeons – amongst springs to mind).LINK (in Russian)
The US, EU and NATO perspective on the Arctic It isn’t a case of Russia remilitarising the Arctic, as part of a “resurgent Russia” narrative, as it is often stated in the West’s media. In fact, the US Arctic policy was first distilled back in 1994, it was subsequently further refined up to 2010. Here’s an extract from an abstract of a book by James Kraska:
“The European Union and NATO are recalibrating their approach to the region just as Japan, China and Korea assess their future economic and security interests in the Arctic Ocean. The national security and homeland security interests set forth in the US Arctic policy represent a window into the Pentagon’s goals and interests in the High North and mark the course for diplomacy, military engagement and future joint and combined operations. Safe, secure and unimpeded maritime transportation is critical to US economic security and the prosperity of the global economy.”
“Recalibrating their approach, Pentagon’s goals & interests”. Indeed. This came at a time when Russia wasn’t considered as ‘aggressive’ or ‘revanchist’. Thus, the US and NATO had already set their sights on a part of the world, in Russia’s backyard, a while back.
Freelance maritime operations-tech researcher/analyst.
Russia has every right to use its navy in its OWN territorial waters. Nothing is more nauseating than reading sanctimonious articles in anglo-european media about Russian agression when all Russia is doing is monitoring its own land and sea. Russia must defend its lands which are under imminent threat of attack from the West- Donbas and Crimea , Trans-Dneistr, Belarus, Siberian Arctic, the Caucasus.. The Syria war is costing a lot of money and lives. According to Sputnik a Russian air force jet has been shot down in Syria. How much is Syria worth to Russia? ( Syria ruled by a man educated in UK, supported Bosnians against Serbs, was totally supportive of Anglo aggression against Saddam, made so many strategic mistakes until Russia saved him in 2015 etc) The Syria war is draining focus from the real enemies in the West. Which is exactly what the Anglo want. Maybe its likely that Assad is a hidden asset of theirs, bogging Russia down so that they can attack Russian areas in Ukraine. When anglo are really threatened by a leader, like Allende and Ghaddafi, they use Murder.
Yes, pretend you are supporting Russia while claiming Assad is an israeloamerican asset and advocating Russia abandon Syria.
Now what sort engages in this sort of duplicity.
Exactly, vot tak.
Again, this kind of perjured slander has been submitted anonymously. And it wouldn’t surprise me the slightest if the very same anonymice also are busy posting the ‘opposite’ variety — to wit, “Putin and his Oligarchs are betraying heroic Syria”, “Putin stabs Assad”, etc.
It’s great Russia is consolidating her Arctic possessions. The Anglo-Zionazis are dead right seeing this as a serious threat to their land-grabbing designs. I guess we’ll be hearing a lot of funny noises about “Russian aggression in Alaska” soon enough.
Um, excuse me for pointing this out, but. . . no one who matters cares if you or anyone else on this blog has a bad opinion of Putin. Anonymous serves no purpose as a tool of the Rothchilds. But anonymous’ theory is worth considering for a true analyst. Groupies get all offended if their hero is questioned. You bet Putin,with KGB training would be testing Anonymous’ theory on the subject of investigation. The gooey relations with the Zionist entity warrant constant vigilance. Also, never underestimate the depravity of our leaders.
Vot sort engage in such duplicity? The sort who boast, “By way of duplicity we shall wage war”.
@ vot tak – Well, there is a guy under name Byzantines who writes a lot on Russia Insider.
He gets more likes than anybody else.
His position is that Putin has betrayed Russian people, he works for Israel, he is agent of Washington, corrupt and Russian government is made of criminals.
People cannot see his duplicity.
Are people so stupid or he is so smart?
Some “reports” of “Russia Insider” are still worth reading (or watching on youtube). Those reports are mainly about getting some insights into the lives of people living in Russia. Aside from that the credibility of “Russia Insider” is quite questionable, especially since they’re following their own agenda (https://www.rt.com/op-ed/416804-anti-semitic-russian-insider/). Since the publishing of the article on RT “Russia Insider” changed its name to Russia Insight. Adding the lost credibility of this web site and the huge amount of likes you’re referring to lead to the question if RI is deliberately trying to harm the efforts of Russian officials to be diplomatic on all sides.
My thoughts exactly, as i was reading the above comment. These people are getting smart, too smart for their pants
The sort who doesn’t understand that the only country bogged down in Syria is Israels attempt to solve it’s security problems via its American proxies. 6 trillion or so since 911 and nothing to show for it.
Edited for language -MOD
The Russian force in Syria is NOT a huge drain on Russian resources and it’s expenses are covered by the Russian Military Budget. Assad is NOT bogging down Russian forces in Syria, as the numbers involved are basically small. Cost in lives ? Minimal. Its remarkable how few casualties the Russians had in three years of fighting, So, ISIS shot down one SU-25 light bomber. So what. It’s the first one they did. The Russians immediately responded, killing more than 30 ISIS terrorists.
Assad did make many strategic mistakes, I’d say due to lack of experience or political acumen. But he is obviously not a Western asset, since they all want him out and preferably dead. And if he is still alive, it’s certainly not for anglo-zionists’ lack of trying. Perhaps his day has not come?
Can’t you look at the facts as they stand?
hi … recent comment of yours was sent to spam and deleted … please repost … mod
Yes, the Arctic region and it’s riches will certainly be an area of contention between Russia and NATO countries. I see that even little Denmark is laying claims to the region.
Russia, ofcourse, fully understands the importance of the Arctic. I believe it’s military presence there is stronger than presented in this article. Apparently it has, according to one source, 24 military bases in the region, overt and covert, some of them exceptionally well armed and prepared, being supplied with the latest Russian high tech. I cannot prove this, but it would not surprise me if it was true. I presume NATO will not do anything foolish, like underestimating the Russian military.
Denmark is entitled to claim under UNCLOS, since Greenland just happens to be in the Arctic, next to the other end of the Lomonosov Ridge.
I was expecting such a reply. Denmark is using Greenland as an excuse to claim parts of Arctic. Debatable. However, it certainly is in Russian interest. If Denmark has the right to claim parts of Arctic, then how much right does Russia have to do the same, bearing in mind Russian geographic location to the Arctic ?
Indeed: all claims done under UNCLOS: since each country has flied its own case, but Russia was the first to do so back in 2001. I suspect that at this stage, it is a matter of principle for these countries to be the winner. It only affects mineral rights, all other issues such as “freedom of navigation” and ‘overflights rights” aren’t included in this UNCLOS definition.
“Coastal states do not have sovereign rights over the water column or the airspace subjacent to the continental shelf.”
Offshore oil and gas exploitation hasn’t reached that far as yet, so it is just the principle that is at stake.
Many Ethnic Greenlanders want independance from Denmark to trade their vast rescources with China etc but imperialist Danish government will never let them and sends settlers there to outnumber them. Just like the anglo american imperialists did in the wild west. All the Germanic ethnicities throughout history have a great tendancy to Fascist and Proto fascist activity in believing they are the Master Race as can be seen from the Teutonic Knights, Anglo and Dutch imperialists, Austrofacism. Stealing others land, wealth and using genocide is considered noble by these people.
Anyway Denmark and Norway are the biggest supporters of Anglo Saxon ideology in Europe..They will be more than willing to help any schemes which they think can weaken Russia. Indeed Skandinavian are practically part of the Anglo block.
True. They are both small snitch nations.
And totally under the thumb of israel. Denmark even signed over their security to mossad.
It is really funny how Americans assume that they have priority rights over another country’s resources and assets and the locals are expected to take second place, or just get out of the way. All in the name of the “free market” cult.
Aside from the political aspect of the “Arctic game”, I hope that we humans will be able to get along without exploiting those resources and thus causing further environmental damage. For nature it doesn’t matter if NATO countries (US / Denmark) or Russia cause environmental damage.
Very decent informative article. Provides for a solid understanding of the situation in the Arctic region with regards to Russia.
Regarding Russian icebreakers, here is an amusing couple articles:
WATCH: Nuclear Icebreaker Sends Arctic Explorers a Wake Up Call
Nuclear-Powered Taxi: Rescue Operation “Crazy Russian” Style
The Taymyr is a unique-looking ship. It appears very tall and top heavy, but it obviously can’t be.
It looks top heavy, but superstructure is of lighter weight than the hull, so looks are deceptive here. Try putting “cruise ship storm” into your favourite video search and you can see how ships with even more top hamper fare in rough weather.
You’re correct i’m sure.
But when one has tons of frozen ice on topsides things can get interesting.
There is a reason for it, as an icebreaker, as Vot Tak says, most of the superstructure is lighter. And you’ll find that the nuclear parts are well protected, heavy, so the centre of gravity (CG) is well within the norms, icing isn’t normally an issue for these ships, but would be problematic for this type of shipping operation though:http://cranesy.com/hansa-heavy-lift-breaks-ice-on-nsr/
This shows the vessel on a similar trip – quite impressive.
I read an article (no links, sorry) that the US Coast Guard is going to arm with cruise missiles.
Given the state of affairs – not surprising.
Thanks for these. I have seen them recently. A bit of publicity for all.
A story that ends well:
“claims made by the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark, all of whom also have territory in the vicinity.”
So _that_ is the source of the smell I’ve been complaining about recently: there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark. And Scandiwegia generally.
A very informative article, thanks.
You have exhaustively answered this silly claim: “the Russian navy is hard pressed to recover some Soviet-era capabilities in Russia’s vast northern coastline.”
This is how Putin explained it in non-technical terms during his last “Direct Line”, on June 15, 2017, answering a woman who thought money was being wasted:
“Why are we so focused on the Arctic? For the past 20 years, no one spoke about it, and today we see Arctic troops even at the Victory Day parade. A lot of money is spent on the Arctic. Why is this?”
“The Arctic is an extremely important region, which will ensure the future of our country. Mikhail Lomonosov once famously said that Russia would expand by means of Siberia. I can say with confidence that Russia’s power and capabilities will expand as we develop the Arctic region.
Moreover, this is an extremely important region from the point of view of ensuring our country’s defence capability. US nuclear submarines remain on duty in northern Norway, the time it takes a missile to reach Moscow is 15 minutes, and we need to have a clear idea of what is happening there. We must protect this shore accordingly, and ensure proper border guarding.
Lastly, for strategic weapons, the flight route of the ground-based missiles located in the United States passes precisely above the North Pole. I hope it will never come to that, but since we are aware of it, we just need to make sure that the missile warning system and the missile launch control system are in place.
This is what the Arctic means to us. We had not engaged in this work before not because it is unimportant, but because we couldn’t afford it. We just let it go, as, unfortunately, we had many other things that are critically important for our country. Now we are back.” http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/54790
Great Article. I enjoyed it almost as much as watching the Eagles beat the Patriots.
As a citizen of a country which one of the first explorers of the Arctic (apart from the Russians themselves of course) and left behind the names of the Barents Sea and Nova Zembla, I enjoyed this excellent contribution on the Arctic state of affairs, both concerning the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and the military implications for Russia. My comment is now concerned with the first part of your note: i.e. commercial shipping through the icy waters of the NSR. Based on the statistics which show a declining number of East West East passages (70 in ’13 down to 20 in ’16) and considering the difficulties of large container ships in shallow arctic waters which are insecure even in summer, you argue that for the foreseeable future the NSR will be primarily an internal (Russian) route which may help build out Yamal terminal and other LNG or other natural resource hubs, provide passage for ice-breaking LNG carriers, as well as to serve Russia’s growing number of military bases. I tend to agree with you.
However, I note that this viewpoint seems not to be shared by everybody. Apparently there are still some strong believers in a future of increasing numbers of transits (including container ships), notably in Norway, Finland and China. I refer to the recent publication of two policy papers on the subject, one from Norway (Kirkenes) and one from China as reported by The Independent Barentsobserver:
The first link provides a summary and the second link the full report. The Railway Vision report envisages a bright future for Arctic container shipping:
550,000 containers is how many transits? Mind you I am no shipping expert. While the rail connection of 550 km from Kirkenes (N) to Rovaniemi (F) still has to be build the Norwegians and Finns appear to be quite optimistic of the potential.
The Barentsobserver report also provides a link to the January 2018 ‘China’s Arctic Policy (White Paper) which may be interesting to combine with your analysis. The report is available under the following link:
I have not yet had the chance to check the Chinese White Paper on above-mentioned future expectations but will do so shortly. Barentsobserver provides a first summary though under this link:
Thanks again, the subject is much overlooked and is bound to attract more and more interest so your contribution is most appreciated.
I enjoy reading comments such as yours, and I appreciated it a lot.
Re the Kirkenes project, if you read carefully it says By year 2040, more than 200 meter long container ships would shuttle to the new Barents port”.
These containerships will more than likely to be using the TPR, as I mentioned in my brief. The traditional NSR is extremely shallow at certain straits, so containerships will skirt over the northern (outermost) islands. China has done research in the TPR as a route, and its icebreaker has gone into that region on expeditions.
Essentially that will leave the traditional NSR for domestic shipping, LNG and oil tankers, plus Europe – Asia return route for ballasted ships. All of this forecasting is based on a set of ice models, a good one to look at this:
to understand the context for when can certain types of shipping safely use parts of the Arctic.
“This route is largely outside Russian EEZ waters, so in the long run, Russia will not necessarily benefit from it, in the way some media & politicians are presenting it. Russia could benefit from the TPR, if it developed a suitable port hub on the Barents Sea coastline, along with the necessary rail infrastructure.”
So the links you gave me are the examples I was thinking about , thank you for posting them.
My main concern with all these projects is that the China Europe rail links are today quicker than the ships, and these are developed even better, (given the infrastructure problems and political gremlins at work) it will further reduce the need for an Arctic container route:
Maybe the shipping routes will become more viable in 2040, 2050s, to what extent will the shipping industry readily use, I don’t know.
Re the size of these, one of the largest OOCL Hong Kong is 21,413 TEU. times x 22, you’d get 1/2 million container transits.
But these ships have an average draft of 20- 25m,so these giants cannot use the whole NSR, as the eastern straits are shallow for them,
Sannikova – 13 to 15 m
Dmitriya Lapteva – 8 to 9 m
I hope that this helps. Thank you
Thanks again, concerning military matters, the links to the Russian bases at Alexander Island and Kotelny are fascinating. A Danish publication on arctic affairs provides a summary of the Russian military activities based on statements at the New Year greeting by the Defense minister Shoigu:
According to Shoigu Russia has set up 425 new buildings with a total measure of 700 K square meter on its military bases on the islands of Kotelny, Alexandra and Wrangel as well as on the Schmidt-peninsula… Three “trifoil-complexes were set up (as per your link) to house over 1.000 personnel. In 2018 the runway on Nagurskoye Bases at Alexandra island in Franz Josef Land-group will be ready for operation of large transport and bombers year around. Runways of Severomorsk-1 basis near Murmansk and the Norwegian border and the runway of Alykel-basis at Norilsk island will also be prepared for the same. In addition, before the year will be over new Tor-M2 surface to air missile systems will be set up on most of the arctic bases (see picture under the link above). This will be a special arctic version that will replace the ZSU-23-4 Shilka air defense system that dates back to the Soviet era.
Sergei Shoigu assures that this is only for defensive purposes. “We are not sabre rattling and have no intention to fight with anybody” writes Shoigu and continues with a warning:
“At the same time do we not recommend anyone to test the strength of our military capacities.”
Meanwhile, in 2016 Danmark has published its own Arctic doctrine (260 pages) which has a mix of defensive, SAR, environmental, economic and civil purposes as well as statements on its cooperation with other nations with arctic interests, including Russia:
Have a look and if you have any questions I (or Lille Abe) may be able to help out.
Oh… let’s not forget the launch of Danmark’s mini-satellite Ulloriaq (little star) over Greenland that is specifically meant for SAR purposes:
This is work in progress. Cheers