Russia to ship oil along Northern Sea Route despite eco protest

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin intends to crank up shipment volumes transported along the Northern Sea Route to 80 million tons by 2024, after moving 31

18 March 2020 - 19:00

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin intends to crank up shipment volumes transported along the Northern Sea Route to 80 million tons by 2024, after moving 31.5 million tons of cargo last year in the remote Arctic sea artery, and despite opposition by advocates of climate change.

This goal flies in the face of warnings from the President's own ministries that heavy industrialisation in the Arctic could make the effects of climate change worse for Russia - which scientists say is already warming 2.5 as fast as fast as any other country in the world, reports Fort Lauderdale's Maritime Executive.

For now, those who favour an Arctic build out are winning out. Mr Putin signed a massive Arctic master plan that cements national priorities for development in the polar region. Key to them is a mandate to drill for more fossil fuels in the polar region by offering oil and gas developers?enormous tax breaks, according to the Norway's Barents Observer.

The master plan follows a scheme issued in January to split the responsibility of developing the Northern Sea Route among Rosneft and Gazprom Russia's state oil and gas monopolies; its state nuclear corporation Rosatom, and Novatek, the private natural gas giant developing on the Yamal Peninsula.

According to the Northern Sea Route Administration, 20.5 million tons shipped last year out of the total 31.5 million tons of goods moved via the passage, comprised natural gas from Novatek's Yamal LNG project. Next came 7.7 million tons of oil from Gazprom Neft's Novy port development in the Gulf of Ob. A further 1.5 million tons comprised ores and minerals shipped from Norilsk Nickel's port.

Relatively little of the tonnage was made up by goods being shipped along the entire 6,000-kilometre stretch of the route, meaning the Northern Sea Route still isn't competitive with the Suez Canal. Only 37 ships made the Europe to Asia voyage during the course of last year. That's fewer than the number of ships passing through the Suez Canal in the course of a single day.

Still, in terms of percentages, cargo volumes on the Northern Sea Route in 2019 rose by 56.7 per cent over the previous year.

However, climate advice offered by a number of Russian government ministries, in particular the Audit Chamber which oversees government spending, has warned that the Kremlin's economic plans will make the effects of climate change worse.

In a report released in January, the Audit Chamber took aim at Mr Putin's US$400 billion National Projects plan - of which Arctic development is a part - and criticised it for making no mention of climate change and its failure to fund any efforts mitigating its impact on the country's economy. The report said climate change could shave up to three per cent per annum off Russia's GDP by 2030.


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