Northern Sea Route: Russia Led the United States Out of the Game
In the gigantic amount of information accompanying the implementation of the Russian project “The Northern Sea Route,” it is very easy to get lost and come to the wrong conclusion that the main goal of this project is to create an alternative to the China-Europe route running through the Suez Canal. And the reports that the world leader in cargo transportation, Maersk, has sent its new container ship Venta to the waters of the Russian Arctic, only reinforce this fallacy, writes Economic Review.
Let’s try to figure out how interesting the Northern Sea Route is as an alternative and why Russia actually needs it.
Probably, we should start with the fact that the navigation period in the NSR lasts only from June to October. It is difficult to imagine that for the sake of carrying out several ships on a route that is shorter by a third, world companies would break down the developing logistics for centuries.
Another argument in favour of the fact that the route through the Arctic will not be widely used by container ships is the sparse population of the Arctic zone of Russia and the absence of large commercial ports in the NSR route. But the logic of using such giants, which has the same “Maersk”, just consists in the presence of several loading and unloading points along the way. The more of them – the better.
The arguments in the “corrupt customs” series of South-East Asia or Africa, as well as the “Pirates of the southern seas”, seem weakly convincing. For several centuries of the existence of the route, certain relations have already been established there that suit all parties.
In order to find the right answer to the question posed above, one should pay attention to Russia’s relations with China, and how the Northern Sea Route is being arranged.
It has long been no secret that the Chinese are investors of many Russian projects in the field of gas and oil production, including in the Russian Arctic zone. Thus, in particular, investors from the PRC invested $ 5 billion in the Yamal LNG project and the first Russian tankers Vladimir Rusanov and Eduard Toll delivered liquefied gas to the Chinese port of Jiangsu Zhudong in the North Sea Route in just 19 days instead of 35, if the route ran through the Suez Canal.
That is, the new route bears an extraordinary benefit when delivering liquefied gas from Yamal fields. Moreover, it is equally beneficial both for transportation to China and for transportation to Europe. In order for the puzzle to take shape finally, attention needs to be paid to the systemic expansion of the military infrastructure in the Russian Arctic, which is designed to ensure tight control over the NSR.
Taking into account the above, it is easy to come to the conclusion that the main purpose of the Northern Sea Route, in any case, a certain period of time, will be the transportation of LNG from Yamal fields. Russia and China benefit by eliminating any US intervention. However, this does not mean that the NSR will be closed to vessels of other countries wishing to shorten the route through the Russian Arctic.