Arctic Yearbook 2012
recoverable even in the presence of permanent sea ice and oceanic water depth…(USGS, 2008).”
Thus, the harvesting of these resources is neither dependent on new technology nor on continued
global warming and sea ice melting.
This notwithstanding, recent in-depth analysis suggests that the exploration and exploitation of these
resources “…may not happen as fast and on such a scale as many observers seem to take for
granted, at least not in the immediate to medium term future” (Jørgensen-Dahl, 2011: 411; see also
Østreng et al., 2012: Ch. 3). Among other things, the planning and construction of new production
sites for oil and gas may under polar conditions take 20 to 30 years for completion. This will affect
the volume of destination shipping, which in the
may increase, based on existing
production sites, and also in the
, based on new production sites to be developed in the
. In this perspective the medium term may be a period of relative stagnation and even
decline in the transport volume for oil and gas along the NEP.
During the Soviet era, the NSR never achieved its intended significance as a transit route between
the two world oceans. Transit traffic reached its maximum cargo volume in 1993 with 208 600
tonnes brought in by 30 voyages of multi-purpose ships of the Norilsk type (SA-15). In the following
decade, transit sailings were rare, occasional and low key.
The interest in transit has increased significantly in recent years – from 2 vessels in 2009, 6 vessels in
2010 to 34 vessels in 2011 (Barentsobserver, 2011). According to the Russian Regional Minister of
Property Relations, Yuri Chuykov, the volume of goods shipped through the NSR is expected to
almost double in 2012 – from 111 000 tonnes in 2011 to 1.5 million tonnes in 2012
(Barentsobserver, 2011). The summer season of 2011 saw the highest number of vessels ever in
transit through the NSR. Fifteen out of the 34 vessels transported liquid cargo (682 000 tonnes),
three carried bulk (110 000 tonnes), four refrigerator ships transported fish (27 500 tonnes), two
vessels transported general cargo and ten vessels sailed in ballast (Østreng et al. 2012: Ch. 5).
According to Atomflot, the total cargo transported that year was 820 000 tonnes (Arctic News,
2011). Some of these transits even made commercial sense – i.e., they made a profit.
In August and September 2009, the Beluga Shipping Group sent two ships,
, through the NEP starting out in Ulsan in South Korea and picking up steel pipes in
Arkhangelsk for delivery in Nigeria. According to the company, by using this route instead of the