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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Figure 2
The Three Potential Transport Passages of the Arctic Ocean
Source: meted.ucar.jpg
The Northeast Passage and the Northern Sea Route
Two approaches are often applied to determine the co-ordinates of the NSR: an
official definition
found in Russian laws and regulations, and
an unofficial Russian functional definition
based on a mixture
of organizational, operational and geopolitical criteria.
The Official Russian Definition of the NSR
According to political perception and legal regulations in Russia,
the NSR stretches from Novaya
Zemlya in the west (meridian 168 degrees 58 minutes and 37 seconds west) to the Bering Strait in the
east (parallel 66 degrees north). The establishment of the NSR as a separate part of the NEP was
decided by the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR on 17 December 1932, which marks
the beginning of the NSR as an administered, legal entity under full Soviet jurisdiction and control. It
comprises the main part of the NEP which, with the addition of the waters of the Barents Sea,
connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans along the entire length of the northern coast of Eurasia.
The NSR is a series of different sailing lanes, and ice conditions at any one time and place will decide
the sailing course to be set. The route covers some 2,200 to 2,900 nautical miles of ice-infested
waters (see Figure 2). It consists of a series of marginal seas – the Kara Sea, the Laptev Sea, the East
Siberian Sea and the Chukchi Sea – which are linked by some 58 straits running through three
archipelagos – the Novaya Zemlja, the Severnaya Zemlja and the New Siberian Islands. At times,
surface vessels operating in convoys are forced to proceed due north of the large island masses due
to the accumulation of pack ice in the straits (Jørgensen, 1991: 77-89), which may be clogged with