Arctic Yearbook 2012
security of marine transportation routes for oil between Northeast Asia and the Middle East has
been seriously threatened by piracy and conflicts among Asian countries. Due to piracy, the cost of
insurance for ships travelling via the Gulf of Aden towards the Suez Canal increased more than
tenfold between September 2008 and March 2009 (Jacobson, 2010: 5). In response to the threat to
these southern supply routes, it is necessary to exploit various other transportation routes and modes
for natural resources. For this reason, Russia has been identified as strategically important to South
Korea as a new alternative energy source in accordance with Korea’s strategy of diversifying the
countries she imports from. In line with this, South Korea is building an icebreaker to be launched in
late 2012, primarily intended for scientific research in the Arctic Ocean and to develop Arctic
transportation routes (Yeong-Seok Ha, 2006: 106). The South Korean government in 2008 restated
her interest in involving herself in the development of Arctic sea routes (Digital Chosunilbo, 2008).
Despite this expressed interest, no regional action has been taken to link up to Arctic resources and
waterways. The reason being that there “…are a host of structural and cultural obstacles to
overcome before the RFE [Russian Far East] and its Asian neighbours can…reach a level of mutual
trust high enough to ensure dynamic cooperative development in the region” (Simonsen, 1996: 4-5).
For all these stumbling blocks and hindrances “…to be overcome many mutual perceptions and not
least realities have to change both in Russia and in Japan, China and the Koreas” (Simonsen, 1996:
5). It is widely known that to keep up the economy of northern regions like Magadan, Kamchatka,
Sakhalin Oblast and the northern areas of the Republic of Sakha and Khabarovsky Krai, “sea
transport is practically the only means of cargo haulage (Otsuka, 2006: 74). Therefore, the waters of
the Bering Strait have been used in summertime by U.S,. Russian and Canadian vessels servicing
communities and industry in northern Alaska and ports along the NWP and NSR in both directions
through the Bering Strait and the Aleutian islands. Overall, approximately 159 large commercial
vessels pass through the Bering Strait every year during the open-water period from July to October.
These estimates exclude fishing vessels and fuel barges serving coastal communities, in particular in
Alaska. The volumes of cargo taken through the Strait are by any yardstick small. In recent decades
proposals have been put forward to change the state of affairs and to put the region on political and
economic maps through the establishment of interconnecting transportation corridors.
In 1992, the State Advisor to the Russian Federation, professor Alexander Granberg suggested that it
would be attractive “…to set up a system of food supply to the eastern sector of the Arctic (i.e. the
Russian Far East) through regular deliveries from the US Pacific coast and south-East Asia…This