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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Shipping and Resources in the Arctic Ocean
sea ice – is counteracted by the introduction of a new challenge –
polar lows
. Among the passages, the
Transpolar passage (TPP) will be the least affected by the newcomer.
Destination and Transit Routes in the TPP
Transpolar routes can serve both destination Arctic and transit purposes. The former implies that
vessels can use international waters for parts of their voyage, entering the NEP and NWP from the
north to unload their cargo. On such occasions, ships using TPP do not get away from the legal
controversies of the NSR and NWP, but becomes part of it. For transit voyages, this involvement
can be avoided by using the high sea sections of the Arctic Ocean, accessing or exiting through the
Fram and Bering Straits.
No commercial ship has ever conducted a voyage across the Central Arctic Ocean. The first TPP
transect was undertaken by the Canadian Icebreaker
Louis S. St-Laurent
and the
Polar Sea
of the
United States in July-August 2004 (Brigham, 2005). All together, seven trans-Arctic voyages – all
taking place in summer – have been conducted by icebreakers, nuclear as well as diesel powered.
The first surface ship ever to reach the North Pole was the Soviet nuclear icebreaker
on 17
August 1977.
departed from Murmansk on 9 August and sailed eastbound through the
Vilkitskii Strait to the ice edge of the Laptev Sea, then turned northward and sailed along longitude
E, reaching the North Pole 8 days later. The ship arrived back in Murmansk on 23 August after
having sailed 3852 nautical miles in 14 days with an average speed of 11.5 knots. Parts of the voyage
took place in heavy ice. This trip unleashed several more voyages from several more countries.
Between 1977 and 2008, ship access to the North Pole in summer has been attained from all regions
of the Arctic Basin. Data shows that 77 voyages have been made to the Geographic North Pole by
icebreakers from Russia (65), Sweden (5). USA (3), Germany (2), Canada (1) and Norway (1). Of all
the visits, 85 per cent has been undertaken by Soviet/Russian icebreakers. Nineteen of these trips
were in support of scientific exploration and the remaining 58 were for the entertainment of tourists.
Eight icebreakers reached the Pole in summer 2004, and during the four consecutive summer
seasons, 33 ships reached the North Pole mainly for tourist and scientific purposes. Of the 76
icebreaker trips that have been to the Pole in summer, the earliest date of arrival has been 2 July 2007
and the latest 12 September 2005. This indicates that the navigation season has been restricted to
about 10 weeks for highly capable icebreaking ships. The only voyage of the 77 not conducted in