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Popularity of Northern Sea Route will depend on renewal of icebreaking fleet - expert

Popularity of Northern Sea Route will depend on renewal of icebreaking fleet - expert 19.11.2010
Text: RIA Novosti - Northwest
Photo: Icebreaker Rossiya. sever.mvk.ru
Northern Sea Route can become a Russia's "exclusive transport feature" if investment program of Atomflot would include funds for building of new nuclear-powered icebreakers, reported RIA Novosti citing Evgeny Nikora, speaker of Murmansk regional parliament and former financial director of Kola nuclear power plant.

Northern Sea Route is the shortest way between North Europe and Asian-Pacific region. Standard route from Rotterdam to Yokohama via Indian Ocean is 11,200 nautical miles long. Northern Sea Route is 3,900 nm (34 per cent) shorter. This reduces underway time from 33 to 20 days; therefore, the carriage costs are also decreased. Potential cargo traffic of Northern Sea Route is estimated as 50 mln tonnes per year.

"Popularity of Northern Sea Route will apparently grow, because it gives Russia an access to Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This kind of viaduct is a new thing and it can become Russia's exclusive transport feature while appropriate development of nuclear-powered icebreaking fleet", Nikora said.

Simultaneously with these developments, Russia "should hog the blanket of shipbuilding", pointed out Nikora. It is necessary to appropriate funds for maintenance of available icebreaking fleet, keep economically feasible rates for Northern Sea Route shipments, and include building of new icebreakers into investment programs.

Nikora reminded that United Shipbuilding Corporation had announced its readiness to build icebreakers under new projects in Murmansk; that statement was made at the October session of Russian government's Maritime Board.

"For Murmansk region, Northern Sea Route is of paramount importance. It starts here, and Russian icebreaking fleet is based here too. We're waiting for gradual rise of cargo turnover with other countries", reported Nikora.

Foreign companies are interested in cargo shipments along Northern Sea Route even more than Russian ones; in prospect, however, the preferences must be given to domestic companies, said the speaker of Murmansk parliament.

Although shipping season at Northern Sea Route had been formally finished almost one month ago, nuclear-powered icebreaker Rossiya Tuesday started a cruise towards East Arctic to assist Swedish icebreaking tug Tor Viking. It is expected that the icebreaking assistance will take about two weeks. They will rendezvous in Chukchee Sea, near Wrangel Island.

Totally, ten nuclear-powered vessels have been built through years of Soviet/Russian icebreaking operations nine icebreakers and one lighter-aboard ship Sevmorput.

As of today, three nuclear-powered icebreakers have been removed from service Lenin (the first one, laid down in 1956), Sibir, and Arktika. In prospect, it is planned to build three dual draft icebreakers (first of them is expected to be launched in 2016), and six diesel electric icebreakers.

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