Arctic Yearbook 2012
Multiple transits through the NSR in 2009-2011 brought LNG, gas condensate, iron and frozen fish
to Asian ports – Shanghai, Vladivostok, Thailand (Ta Put), South Korea (Ulsan) and China
(Ningbo/Lianyungang), and one shipment went the other way from Korea through the Bering Strait
to Arctic and European ports (Østreng et al., 2012: Ch. 5, see also Wergeland, 2011: 419-420). It is
time to prepare politically and diplomatically for meeting “the strategic consequences of three
continents growing together in the North” (Dagsavisen, 2009).
The Fram Corridor
The “Fram Corridor” (FC) has not been formally established and/or baptised with a name of public
recognition. It is simply a label provided for the purpose of this article, borrowing its name from the
Fram Strait which separates Svalbard and Greenland in the north with a minimum of 540 km and in
the south with a maximum of 900 km. The Molly Deep provides the deepest point not only in the
Strait but also in the whole of the Arctic Ocean with a depth of some 5607 m. In the centre of the
Strait, depths in general are around 2000 m, with coastal depths ranging from 100 to 500 m.
(Lysaker, 2009). The Fram corridor in our definition includes the Strait and the Greenland Sea
connecting in the south with the transoceanic branch of the NMC north and/or south of Iceland.
90 per cent of all sea ice that leaves the Arctic Ocean goes through the Fram Strait at high speeds –
in between 10 to 25 cm per second (Lysaker, 2009). Previously, this Strait was the outlet of thick
multi-year ice extending down to the Denmark Strait between Jan Mayen, Iceland and Greenland.
Parts of the Fram Corridor is what whalers and sealers for centuries have called the
(Vestisen) outside the east coast of Greenland – a hostile sea ice area of many tragic ship losses.
Today, the Fram Strait is mostly the outlet of young and first-year ice with a thickness of up to 1.5 m.
Only on rare occasions has multi-year ice been recorded going through the Strait in recent years. This
is due to the rise of the air temperature in the area of 2-3 degrees Celsius in the course of the last
decades (see www.npweb.npolar.no). Thus, climate change has made the FC more accessible to
surface shipping than before.
Unlike the NPC, the FC is not being used on a regular basis for shipping purposes, neither
destination nor transit. It is known that it has been used by a small number of submarines exiting or
accessing the Arctic Ocean (Østreng, 1979: 70-132), and as an exit area for the Canadian icebreaker
Louis S. St-Laurent
and the USCGC
in August 2004. In addition, a few research ships and
even drifting ice stations (Althoff, 2007) have been operating in the area for research purposes, but