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Experts: Tenfold increase of Northern Sea Route’s cargo turnover possible

Experts say building up the cargo turnover along the Northern Sea Route to 80 million tonnes by 2025 is a realistic task,

MOSCOW, March 2. /TASS/. Building up the cargo turnover along the Northern Sea Route (NSR) to 80 million tonnes by 2025 is a realistic task, which may be achieved by developing infrastructures and the icebreaker fleet, experts in the transport sector told TASS.

On Thursday, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in his annual State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly said the cargo turnover along the Northern Sea Route should grow tenfold to 80 million tonnes by 2025. The president also set the task of increasing by 50% (to 180 million tonnes) the cargo capacity of the BAM and Trans-Siberian (Transsib) railways towards the Far East’s sea ports and border-crossing areas.

"The cargo turnover’s growth by 2025 is a realistic task," former aide on transport at Russia’s representation at EU Yulia Zvorykina told TASS, stressing development of the Trans-Siberian railroad and the Northern Sea Route do not conflict. "Transportation of LNG (liquefied natural gas) only is forecasted at 33 tonnes a year by 2024 already, and the Northern Sea Route will have five areas for liquefying the natural gas, where cargo amounts are planned at 50 million tonnes."

"In case icebreakers escort vessels year-round, the plan is more than realistic, though the icebreaker fleet requires expanding," she added.

"The joint development of the Northern Sea Route and Transsib would mean a new system of the transport containers’ turnover, and the region’s transit opportunities may be exploited only if the containers are full in both directions," the expert continued. "If we manage to do so, then we shall fulfil the goal, set more than a century ago by the Russian Empire’s Prime Minister Sergei Vitte, as he said Russia should be using the geographical advantage of its vast territories."

Deputy Head of the Russian Transport University (MIIT) Irina Karapetyants shares these forecasts, though sees the main problem in lacking infrastructures and in active deployment of military equipment in the Arctic.

"The objective is ambitious, and it requires the infrastructures’ improvement and development of the Arctic’s economy," she said. "It is clear why the president has quoted year 2025 - by that time, the Americans plan to get settled in that region. We shall have to face the issue of technologies, we are lacking under the sanctions, but anyway, Arctic’s biggest potential problem is its militarization. Countries are building up their military presence there, including the U.S., which has in its military budget a special section for the Arctic’s development."

Ports’ infrastructures

Head of the Arctic Sciences’ Master program at the North-Eastern Federal University Daryana Maksimova says the Arctic’s development favors Russia’s international cooperation, though it is hindered by state of the Arctic ports’ infrastructures.

"Russia does not limit foreign vessels going along the Northern Sea Route, but using that transport corridor on a regular basis needs available infrastructures, renovation of which requires investments, including, possibly, foreign investments," she said. "Many are interested in NSR, those are primarily… China, South Korea, Japan."

According to the expert, Russia’s all Arctic ports, with the exception for the Krasnoyarsk Region’s Dudinka, should be revamped.

A member of the scientific council at the Russian Security Council Mikhal Grigoryev says the ports’ transport infrastructures even now are quite capable of serving the forecasted cargoes. Raw materials are either transported to final destinations (LNG, ore concentrate, commercial metals), or they are taken at first to reloading complexes in the Kola Bays’ roads (oil), which are technological elements of project’s transport nets, unrelated to the ports’ infrastructures, he said.

"An LNG reloading complex in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, with capacity of 20 million tonnes, is due to be ready by 2022-2023, but it is also a specific terminal, which is a part of Novatek’s transport net," he added.