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Role and Tasks of Naval Hydrography in Economic Development of Russia`s Arctic Seas Shelf

Author: Admiral Anatoly A.Komaritsyn, Chief of Head Department of Navigation and Oceanography, MoD, Russian Federation

The present-day stage of Russia`s economic development is characterised by the beginning of large-scale development of the World ocean resources and creation of navigation-hydrographic support system in keeping with this task.

In the first place, this applies to prospecting and development of gas and oil deposits on the continental shelf of Russia`s Arctic seas.

It is supposed that the development of Stockman, Prirazlomnoye and other fields will enable a number of the most important problems of national economy to be solved. Among these problems are:
  • consolidation of Russia`s position on the world oil-product market;
  • optimization of energy and raw materials flows of the North-West territorial-industrial complex which would increase its economic potential and strengthen the country`s geopolitical positions as a whole;
  • intensified development and conversion of the military-industrial complex of St.Petersburg and the North-West region of the Russian Federation.

For many years, the activities of the Navy in the Arctic were connected with provision of the military-strategic interests in this region of the World ocean, based on the creation of effective infrastructure for the naval strategic nuclear forces and multimission forces along the Arctic sea frontiers of Russia.

The unique features of the Arctic natural conditions and their specific influence on the employment of the naval forces and facilities stimulated the active participation of the Navy in solving the fundamental problems of the physics of the ocean and atmosphere and resulted in accumulation of long-term experience of organizing the activities of complicated organizational and technical systems under the extreme Arctic conditions. One of the most important scientific and practical results which arose from these activities was the establishment of information-technological infrastructure of navigation and hydrographic support that is unique both from the point of view of its capabilities and resources.

At the same time, it should be noted that provision of the navigation-hydrographic and hydrometeorological support for the oil and gas fields has some essential features due to:
  • insufficient knowledge of peculiarities inherent in operation of the complicated technical system of gas and oil fields under the extreme natural conditions of the Arctic;
  • insufficient navigation-hydrographic and hydrometeorological information about the Arctic shelf areas as applied to specific tasks set to provide the navigation safety of the new types of vessels, the marine engineering surveys as well as to the tasks of navigation-hydrographic support for the construction and operation of production complexes and other hydrotechnical installations;
  • exceptionally high-level requirements to ecological safety of operation of oil and gas complexes situated in the areas of heavy maritime traffic, fishing, and operational activities of the Navy.

The change of military-political situation in the world and trends of international economic integration result in a considerable change in the priorities of tasks carried out by the Navy in the Arctic. The hierarchy of these priorities is connected, in the first place, with provision of favorable conditions for development of natural resources on the Russia`s shelf in the North both in the framework of national programs and in the programs with international participation. The most important directions of the Navy`s activities in the Arctic under the new conditions are as follows:
  • peacekeeping and provision of safety in the Arctic basin;
  • provision of the established regime of the Russian Federation sea frontier;
  • provision of the commitments of the Russian Federation in its internal waters, territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, on the continental shelf and in the areas outside the national jurisdiction with due regard for international commitments, including those for provision of navigation safety and freedom of the seas;
  • protection and conservation of the marine environment with due regard for international agreements in force.

The growing importance of ecological problems in the economic development of the Arctic shelf presupposes the necessity to carry out a closer international cooperation of the Navies and civil fleets of the neararctic states as well as the necessity to integrate their technical capabilities and information resources in order to prevent and remove the effects of ecological disasters.

It is also necessary to consider, on the political level, the possibilities of conversional employment and integration of certain components making up the naval support systems of the neararctic states, taking the prospects of creation and development of the Arctic transport system into consideration.

This applies to such components as:
  • surface, air and underwater surveillance systems intended for military aims;
  • the systems of collection, processing and promulgation of hydrometeorological and ice information;
  • systems of marine and air traffic control intended for military aims;
  • aids to navigation systems, including those intended for military aims, as well as specialized high-precision high-latitude navigation systems.

In the course of several decades when the Arctic basin was being developed, the Russian Navy carried out a colossal scope of research in diverse fields of knowledge, enlisting the services of the advanced scientific and industrial organizations. Eighty per cent of the Arctic Ocean and its marginal seas are covered by oceanographic, gravimetric and magnetic surveys as well as by bathymetric and sea bottom soils surveys, except for some areas of the Canadian sector. The volume of these data exceeds that of all the rest neararctic states taken together; the data are sure to be of interest for solving the fundamental scientific problems.

Considerable portion of these resources that were inaccessible for civil and foreign users has already been declassified and is coming into scientific and commercial circulation.

Such a high level of knowledge allows to provide the users with high-quality cartographic materials, including the electronic navigational charts prepared in compliance with international standards and covering the greatest part of the Arctic water area. And the prospects of creating the automated distribution system of digital cartographic information open up new opportunities of unrestricted access to it for any interested organizations and mariners in compliance with user service discipline in force.

As it is known, the countries of the Northern Forum are now discussing different projects of creating the Arctic Transport System and its components.

There is no doubt that this project, being grandiose by its concept, will make it necessary to use the greatest part of the available information and conversion resources of the Navy and military-industrial complex. And the full-scale investigations aimed at the selection of the route and its navigation-hydrographic support in the common interests zone of the majority of neararctic states, will become the worthy beginning of the new stage of the activities of Russia`s Hydrographic Service in the interests of national economy and world economic cooperation in the coming XXI century.