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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Shipping and Resources in the Arctic Ocean
Suez Canal, they saved some 3000 n.m. and reduced fuel consumption by roughly 200 tonnes in total
per vessel. This resulted in financial savings of about US$100,000 alone for bunker costs with Beluga
F-class vessels, plus US$20,000 daily for each day that travelling the NEP shortens the usual voyage
time. All in all, about US$300,000 were saved per vessel by these transits instead of taking the long
route through the Suez Canal (Beluga Group, 2009: 1). At the time, the President and CEO of
Beluga Shipping indicated that he expected the new generation vessels of Beluga P-class would result
in financial savings of about US$600,000 per vessel and transit (Beluga Group, 2009: 5). This
profitable experience was shared by others. In September 2010, the Hong Kong-flagged
MV Nordic
transported iron ore from Kirkenes in Norway to Shanghai. This voyage was one-third
shorter than the Suez route, saving time, fuel and carbon dioxide emissions. Estimates show that
about US$180,000 worth of fuel was saved (Chircop, 2011: 11). Some of these transits also
challenged traditional knowledge.
Studies undertaken by the
International Northern Sea Route Programme
(INSROP), 1993-99 suggested
that if a cargo vessel is required to call on NSR ports, draught will be limited to 9 meters (m) and
breadth to 30 m, with cargo capacity probably restricted to 20 000 deadweight tons (dwt). For more
northerly routes (without) port calls a maximum draught of 12,5 m and a breadth of 30 m can yield a
maximum cargo capacity of 50 000 dwt. Such vessels would be approximately one-third the size of
those sailing the Suez Canal route (Tamvakis, et al., 1999: 221-280). In 2011, the largest vessels ever
– a 160 000 dwt Suezmax loaded with 120 000 mt gas condensate and the largest bulk carrier ever, 75
000 dwt Panmax vessel loaded with iron ore – used the NSR without complications. The draught of
these ships ranged between 13 and 20 m. At the same time a new speed record was set for the route,
with an average of 14 knots consuming 8 days of transit (Østreng et al., 2012: Ch. 5). These
achievements gave rise to this conclusion: “Although the majority of the NSR trips in 2011 involved
Russian interests either as cargo owners or operators, the route now attracts quite an international
mix of operators. We also see non-cargo vessels using the route... If the Russian authorities continue
to price icebreaker assistance so that the fees do not exceed the corresponding Suez Canal toll, we
will no doubt experience increased use of the NSR” (Østreng et al., 2012: 438). This is not to say that
there are no shortcomings in navigation along the route.
The Russian government claims 41 Arctic ports to be open for foreign vessels and additional ports
to be regulated for visits by foreigners on board foreign cargo ships. At present, more than half of
these ports are out of operation. Although there is adequate accesses to ice-breaker assistance, only a