The Great Northern Sea Route Discussed as a New Global Trade Route on the Eastern Economic Forum

On September 3, 2021, an expanded meeting of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) Public Council was held on the sidelines of the VI Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. The roundtable in the Marine Hall of the Far Eastern Federal University gathered more than 100 experts, business people, and academics from Russia, Japan, China, Norway, Finland, and UAE in on- and off-line formats. The Northern Sea Route Public Council was envisioned as a platform for constructive discussion of plans and search for answers to the questions from all parties and partners interested in the development of this route.

Alexey Likhachev, Director General of ROSATOM, declared that transition to the concept of the Great Northern Sea Route (GNSR) would make it easier for the foreign colleagues to perceive the Arctic's main transport artery and structure the work on the development of Russian regions along the entire sea route between the Western and Eastern sea borders of Russia. "We see the Great Northern Sea Route as a transport sea corridor that includes territorial waters and Russian exclusive economic zone from the state sea border with Norway in the Barents Sea to the state sea border with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the east. This water area also includes the Northern Sea Route. In order to develop international transit, we plan constructing two big high-tech container terminals in the west and in the east — specifically, in Murmansk and Vladivostok. In order to develop the GNSR along its entire length effectively, we will determine the key points for export and coastwise shipping, construct new ports and terminals. In addition, comprehensive vision of the GNSR allows us to better assess all the needs of the port infrastructure, transport ships, and options of logistic crossings by land," he emphasized.

Sergey Frank, Head of the NSR Public Council, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sovcomflot PJSC noted that Northern Sea Route would become more and more significant as both a national transport artery and international transport corridor. The key factor of NSR reliable functioning lies in solving the issue of ensuring year-round navigation along the entire water area of the Northern Sea Route, including its eastern part. "We all see fundamental prerequisites for Northern Sea Route becoming both a reliable and effective main transport artery for solving problems of national projects and one of the elements of the global logistics system of the 21st century. Even under the conditions of economic decrease associated with COVID-19 pandemic, businesses look for new routes that allow achieving optimal transportation costs and carbon footprint reduction. It seems obvious that in this sense the capabilities of the NSR will be in demand, and it is only a matter of time and efforts of all parties involved," said Sergey Frank.

Vladimir Panov, Special Representative of ROSATOM for the Development of the Arctic, Deputy Chairman of the State Commission for the Development of the Arctic, focused on the infrastructure, environment, and safety of the Great Northern Sea Route. "Northern cargo traffic is rapidly growing, and the goal of 80 million tons of cargo turnover by the end of 2024 has been set. However, we are already looking further, and we believe that a new stage in the development of the Northern Sea Route and the Great Northern Sea Route as a transport artery connecting Europe and Asia will begin after 2025. According to our conservative estimates, cargo turnover will reach 150 million tons in 2030," said Vladimir Panov adding that an increase in cargo traffic on the NSR in 2025–2030 would cause a shortage of the icebreaker fleet up to 6 icebreakers according to ROSATOM's and shipping organizations' estimates. In order to solve this problem, it is planned to make two more nuclear icebreakers (Project 22220) and four LNG-icebreakers. 

Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, CEO, Head of the Board of Directors of DP World (UAE), emphasized that the development of the Great Northern Sea Route would not only benefit international trade, but also have a significant positive impact on the environment. "The Northern Sea Route has great potential for enhancing economic activity and increasing welfare in the Russian Far East," he said. 

"Foreign companies must contribute to the development of the new logistics route significantly,” emphasized Felix Tschudi, representative of Tschudi Group (Norway), member of the NSR Public Council. 

The Eastern Economic Forum became a platform for the IV meeting of the Northern Sea Route Public Council. The Public Council meets at least twice a year. In order to stay in touch between meetings of the NSR Public Council, a website has been created at It covers the Council activities and works out the issues the members of the Council may have. The website contains sections dedicated to the NSR Infrastructure Development Plan and the NSR Development national project. In addition, a separate section on environmental safety will be created.