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Vladimir Panov, Rosatom: “We are turning a new page in the development of the Arctic”

Date: June 22, 2024 Time: 09:22:02

Photo: Andrei Minaev

The main logistics project for the development of the Arctic is the Northern Sea Route (NSR). Almost two trillion rubles have been allocated for its development. And one of the main tasks is to increase the icebreaker fleet, which will make it possible to more effectively use the potential of this route. How is this work going? And what perspectives does it open? Vladimir Panov, deputy chairman of the State Commission for the Development of the Arctic and special representative of Rosatom for the development of the Arctic, spoke about this in the Komsomolskaya Pravda study at VEF-2023.

– Vladimir, let’s briefly talk about the Northern Sea Route. What is he really?

– If you look at the logistics route, it starts not even in Murmansk, but in St. Petersburg. Then come Murmansk and Arkhangelsk. Then we arrived at Nueva Zembla. And here is just the beginning of the Northern Sea Route. It is 3 thousand nautical miles or 5600 kilometers. We arrived at the Bering Strait. The Northern Sea Route ends there. Then the Far East begins. And we arrived in Vladivostok, where we are now.

– The Northern Sea Route is often compared to the Suez Canal. From the point of view of which route is easier and faster to transport goods? Can you remember these comparisons? In what cases does the use of NSR save carriers time and money?

– The comparison is very simple. If we take the Murmansk – Shanghai route via Suez, it will be 12.5 thousand nautical miles. And if we take the same route along the Northern Sea Route, it will be 7 thousand nautical miles. On the example of distance, everything is clear. But there are nuances here. If we take the average speed of a cargo ship, it is about 20 knots. It turns out that the ship travels 480 nautical miles per day. Plus, simple math that we remember from school. And it turns out that you can get from Murmansk to Shanghai via the NSR in 14 or 15 days and via the Suez Canal in 26 days. But here it must be taken into account that the Northern Sea Route is not open water. There is always a certain influence of climate and nature, as well as a certain amount of ice, which can reduce this speed.

– How strong?

– If we reduce the speed, for example, to 15 knots, then we will have a travel time of about 20 days. If we take, in principle, the most difficult navigation, winter and spring (starts in November and ends in June), then this speed may be even lower. It all depends on the thickness of the ice that the ship needs to overcome. Therefore, at this time this issue is still subject to some variability. In this regard, it is important to note that only Russia has best practices, experience and unique innovations in shipping in the Arctic.

– What is the reason for this?

– First of all, of course, geography and history. Because, if you take the entire Arctic coast, it is about 34 thousand kilometers. Our country has 22 thousand kilometers. That is, 60% of the entire Arctic coastline. Naturally, this posed challenges, especially in the Soviet Union. The icebreaker had to travel enormous distances. And then the concept of a nuclear icebreaker appeared.

– How is it radically better than non-atomic?

– A simple example. We periodically fill our car with gasoline. The ship has the same need. In this sense, ensuring fuel supply along the entire Northern Sea Route is, let’s say, not an easy task. And anyway, no matter what fuel there is, it will still limit the navigation area. A nuclear icebreaker changes fuel once every 6 years. All this time he works incessantly. Consequently, you have no restrictions in the navigation area. This is a unique class of ships that only the Russian Federation has today (and tomorrow too).

– Remind me, how many nuclear icebreakers do we have now?

– Today there are 10 icebreakers operating in the waters of the NSR. Seven of them are nuclear. If we divide them into components, then 4 icebreakers can be conventionally called projects of the previous generation (“Taimyr”, “Yamal”, “Vaigach” and “50 years of victory”). In reality, they were built to Soviet Union designs. Its power is from 40 to 45 megawatts. They are also sailing three new icebreakers (Arktika, Sibir and Ural). They have 60 megawatts of power. They have already proven their high efficiency and performance in the Arctic.

– Are there plans to build more nuclear icebreakers in the future?

– The plans are large-scale. Five icebreakers are already being built. There are four more in the plans. And the main flagship, the icebreaker Leader, is currently being built in Zvezda in the Far East. The power of it is 120 megawatts. It is needed specifically for the eastern sector of the NSR.

– Because?

– I will explain it to you to understand the geography. Let’s take the western part of the Northern Sea Route, that is, where Novaya Zemlya, the Ob Gulf, the Yenisei Gulf and the Kara Sea meet. Sailing there now takes place every day, both winter and summer, and does not stop for a minute. And this has already affected volumes. As an example. If in 2014 the volume of cargo transportation along the NSR was 4 million tons, in 2022 it will already be 34 million tons. In comparison, the USSR record was 7 million tons. That is to say, shipping technologies have changed a lot in recent years. What was the technology like before? The icebreaker crosses a channel through which a cargo ship is already following and arrives safely at its destination port. Now, with the arrival of Arctic-class ships, the interaction between the icebreaker and the ship is based on a different principle. An icebreaker supports such a ship only in the necessary areas, and in the remaining areas, the cargo ship itself turns into an icebreaker and overcomes the ice independently. But this is the entire western sector. As soon as in winter and spring, in the eastern part (from the Vilkitsky Strait to the Bering Strait), navigation stops, a barn lock is hung there. But now we are on the threshold of a new historical stage, when next year the Novatek company together with Rosatom will begin the first regular flights in the eastern part. Precisely why we need this super-powerful icebreaker, which will definitely establish our leadership for many years.

– How are shipments from the Arctic delivered to customers?

– Let’s say you and I have cargo in the Arctic. To deliver it somewhere, we ship it from the Arctic project and arrive at some port, either Murmansk (if we transport it to the West) or Kamchatka (if we go to the East). There the transshipment is carried out to a conventional ship. And it is already on its way to the client’s port. In this way we free up high-class Arctic ships so that they can return to carry out new cargoes. The completion of the construction of this infrastructure is before our eyes. I think that by the end of this year all the work in Kamchatka will be finished. This will create the necessary foundation.

– What perspectives does this open up?

– Of course, freight traffic will increase. There are suggestions that this year we may set a new record for the flow of cargo in transit. Of course, the Northern Sea Route will in the near future be one of the most important corridors through which many products will be supplied. In fact, we are turning a new page in the development of the Russian Arctic.

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From September 10 to 13, 2023, the Eighth Eastern Economic Forum will be held in Vladivostok. The motto of the forum is “Towards cooperation, peace and prosperity”. The organizer of the event is the Roscongress Foundation. Komsomolskaya Pravda is the official information partner of EEF 2023.

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Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.
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