State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom

Joint Stock Company Atomic Energy Power Corporation

Press center of nuclear energy and industry

Public Council of state corporation Rosatom



The Northern Sea Route comprises all routes from the Barents to the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Strait suitable for shipping and includes Arctic seas and part of the Arctic Ocean limited by Russian economic zone which stretches for 200 miles northwards from the border northern archipelagoes and islands of the Russian sector of Arctic (Franz-Josef land, Severnaja Zemlja, Novosibirsk Islands, Vrangel Island).

The NSR ensures first of all the functioning of states transport system in the areas with a particularly difficult access like remote archipelagoes, islands, seas and coasts of the Arctic, central regions of the Eastern and Western Siberia. The NRS connects great Siberian rivers and sea trade routes into a unified transport system suitable for shipping cabotage and export cargoes.

Arctic region is extremely rich in hydrocarbon, mineral and other resources. The Northern Sea Route as a national transport corridor of Russia plays major role in further economic development of northern regions and the State in general. NSR is rapidly becoming a transit Arctic shipping line that can pose an alternative to the existing intercontinental shipping routes between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through Suez and Panama Canals.

Full-scale and regular commercial shipping along the Northern Sea Route was organized in 1920. Since that time the basic stages of new navigational routes development were determined by the increase in icebreaking fleet power.

The contemporary stage of Arctic shipping was definitely started by the commissioning of the worlds most powerful atomic icebreakers of Arktika and Taimyr type.

In 1977 atomic icebreaker Arktika was the first vessel to reach the North Pole using her own power. In 1978 the year-round navigation in the Western Arctic was started due to the use of Arktika type icebreakers. Year-round navigation was demanded in order to supply Norilsk industrial area with resources. Port of Dudinka is located on the Yenisei River that has shallow waters. To solve this matter the low-draught icebreakers Taimyr and Vaygach were designed and constructed. Along with aforementioned icebreakers the atomic container carrier Sevmorput, vessels of Norilsk and Dmitry Donskoy type were built to transport Norilsk factory cargoes. The system serving the navigational and hydrographic needs of the fleet was modernized; port of Dudinka was enlarged and reconstructed. To complete the year-round navigation program the State spent 200 billion dollars (cost adjusted to 1975).

At the same time the navigation period in the Eastern Arctic was prolonged to 6 months, new icebreaking routes were developed in high latitude and close to the North Pole areas, including the ones outside of Russian Arctic sector.

The break in climate change also contributes to the demand for the icebreaking fleet. At the beginning of the polar winter of 2008 the ice-covered area of Arctic seas and central Arctic basin increased by 1 million sq. km if compared to the same area in 2007. The leading Russian scientists concluded that the period of 2011-2017 would bring cooling to the Northern hemisphere and increase the ice area of the Arctic seas. As the specialist in the field of macroeconomics say, the operations on the Northern Sea Route reflect the national economy as a whole. The cargo flow on the Northern Sea Route dropped from 6,7 million ton in 1987 to 1,4 million ton in 1998.

The cargo flow started to increase again in 2000, in 2005-2007 the amount of cargo shipped in the Arctic area exceeded 2 million ton and keeps growing.

Joint-stock company Gazprom is planning to develop gas-field on the Yamal Peninsula in the near future. Atomic icebreakers have been piloting vessels with cargoes for the Yamal Peninsula since 1976 in winter time. Rosatomflot is ready to pilot bulk-carriers, gas-carriers and tankers to the Yamal Peninsula and to the Gulf of Ob on year-round basis.

The Northern Sea Route lies within the Russian exclusive economic zone. Beside this Russia claims the part of Arctic sea shelf of 1,2 million square km in the area of the Lomonosovs Ridge and Mendeleevs Elevation in the Arctic Ocean.

Atomic icebreakers are doing the main work of collecting data necessary to support the claim for the continental shelf borders.

The official claimants for the Arctic shelf and the Arctic Ocean resources are USA, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. Germany, Japan, India and China also demonstrate active interest for the Arctic. Many of these countries try to revise the economic zone borders in the Arctic. To conduct geological and hydro-meteorological research in the Arctic USA and European Union each spends 1 billion dollars annually.

icebreakerTo successfully complete these tasks, Russian icebreakers and vessels are contracted. For example, i/b Sovetsky Soyuz supported drilling works on the Lomonosovs Ridge in 2005 contracted by Maritime Administration of Sweden; i/b 50 Let Pobedy supported the scientific work done by icebreaker Oden northward of Greenland in 2007; i/b Kapitan Dranitzin made a voyage with the expedition of the University of Alaska in 2008.

To protect the national geopolitical interests, Russia must maintain its active presence in the region. This presence implies research work, search and mining of natural resources, ice pilotage of cargo vessels.

In the recent years the interest of foreign ship owners for the Northern Sea Route has significantly grown. Several factors explain this tendency significant reduction of navigation period between ports of Europe and South-East Asia, absence of pirate threat and others.

At present Russia plays the leading role in the use of atomic icebreaking fleet to provide shipping in the Arctic and other freezing seas. To successfully operate in the Arctic Russia is constantly developing and improving atomic icebreaking fleet which represents the key element of the Northern Sea Route infrastructure. For this purpose the new generation atomic icebreaker is being designed (LK-60 N). This icebreaker will have the overall power of 60 MW with variable draught (from 8,5 m to 10,8 m) and will be able to replace 1 icebreaker of Arktika and 1 icebreaker of Taimyr type.

Navigation Routes

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Ice Chart in

Traditional Navigation Routes

Ice Chart in Winter-Spring

Ice Chart in Summer-Autumn

Shipping Dynamics Increase in
Navigation Period
Shipping Increase in Navigation Period

Traffic Regime