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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Here, US Arctic policy is defined in the context of her global interests (Brubaker & Østreng, 1999:
299-331). When it comes to the Central Arctic Ocean (TPP) the EU Commission states that “[n]o
country or groups of countries have sovereignty over the North Pole or the Arctic Ocean around
it…” (EU Commission, 2008). The freedom of navigation and the freedoms of the High Seas shall
rule these waters. In this regard, the EU Council went one step further in reiterating the rights and
obligations for flag, port and coastal states provided for in international law, including UNCLOS, in
relation to freedom of navigation, the right of innocent passage and transit passage, and will monitor
their observance (EU Council, 2009: item 16). The EU Parliament has also come around to agree
with the Commission and the Council in this case (EU Parliament, 2009). If, as indicated in one of
the definitions of the NSR, Russia extends her jurisdiction also to the high seas of the Arctic Ocean
(high-latitude and near North Pole routes), diplomatic protests most likely will be heard from
Washington, Brussels and capitals of smaller states (see Østreng et al., 2012: Ch. 1 and 6).
Destination and Transit Routes
At its peak in the 1980s, the Soviet fleet of icebreakers counted 38 vessels operating along the route
and southward on the big Siberian rivers. Six of the icebreakers were nuclear powered of which the
biggest exerted 75 000 horsepower. In addition, a fleet of close to 700 ice-strengthened vessels were
built to operate along the route on a year-round basis (Østreng, 1991: 9-12). These efforts
notwithstanding, on occasion convoys of ships had to over winter in the NSR before they were freed
by icebreakers in late spring the following year. Accidents happened and freighters were damaged
and lost. According to Russian sources, in the period between 1954-1990 the total number of ice
damages to ships traversing the NSR was about 800, or an average of 22 a year. The accidents were
distributed as follows: the Kara Sea: 49% (here the intensity of navigation is the highest; the Laptev
Sea: 20%; the East Siberian Sea: 2%; and the Chukchi Sea: 14% (here the density of ships is the
lowest and ice conditions the worst) (Lensky, 1992). In the period between 1945-90, the sailing
season of the eastern part of the NSR was restricted to about 3 months, whereas ice conditions in
the western part allowed for an extended sailing seasons of up to 4-5 months. Today the sailing
season can be extended close to 6 months for the whole route.
Destination Sailings
Since 1978 and up to the present, the Russian icebreaker fleet has succeeded in keeping the stretch
from Murmansk to Dudinka on the banks of the Yenisei River open for sailings 12 months a year.