NSR will Remain Main Arctic Route for Next Five Years: IMO Chief

Monday October 21, 2013

Use of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) will grow "dramatically" in coming years, but travel on the North West Passage along the Canadian coast will be more difficult, Koji Sekimizu, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) told Russian industry news site Information & Analytical Agency PortNews (PortNews IAA).

Sekimizu said the IMO must establish an international standard for vessels travelling on the NSR to promote safety, and that he hopes to adopt a mandatory Polar Code by the end of 2014 that could come into force in 2016 or early 2017.

"I'm convinced that IMO regulation will ensure the maintenance of the safety level for the navigation over the Northern Sea Route," he said.

Sekimizu said he travelled over the NSR this summer and was impressed that, at the time, 90 percent of the 1700 miles were ice-free.

"That clearly indicates that in summer time it is possible to allow a large number of vessels going through the Northern Sea Route," he said.

"If we ensure that icebreaker support will be provided then not only vessels carrying the minerals and oil from Russia to Asian countries but also the traffic from Asia to Europe will be increased."

When it comes to the North West Passage, however, he said ice remains a bigger issue even in the summer.

"Also the Canadian coast is much more complicated compared with the Northern Sea Route," he said.

"As far as I see the forthcoming five years, the Northern Sea Route will be the main shipping lane for navigation and passage."

A Nordic Bulk Carriers A/S (Nordic Bulk) vessel became the first-ever bulker to travel through the North West passage this year.

Despite the expected increase in traffic in the region, AP Møller-Maersk CEO Nils Andersen believes Arctic shipping routes will have little impact on the shipping industry for at least 15 years.