Big Jump in Arctic Voyages for 2013

Monday July 22, 2013

Administrators of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) have given more than 200 ships permission to sail across the route this year, suggesting a major upswing in traffic through the Arctic, the Financial Times reports.

Last year, only 46 ships sailed the NSR, and that was a major increase from four vessels two years earlier.

Some observers predict that the NSR, which follows Russia's north coast, will become increasingly significant for international trade, and South Korea's Maritime Institute says a quarter of Asia-Europe trade could move through the route by 2030.

"It is a given that the activity will increase and increase massively," said Sturla Henriksen, director-general of the Norwegian Shipowners' Association, "But we believe the commercial potential will be limited for quite a few years."

Iceland is considering building an Arctic port on its northeast coast, according to German port operator Bremenports, which is studying the viability of a project at Finna Fjord, a spot that would be ice-free all year.

By 2021, the route could be open eight months a year, and traffic could rise tenfold, according to Valentin Davydants, captain of Russia's Atomflot fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said last month that shipping through the Arctic is likely to see major growth as the sea ice thaws.