The Development of the Northern Route : a double-edged sword

The Development of the Northern Route : a double-edged sword
  • PublishedJune 22, 2023

To stimulate economic development in the Arctic region, Russia seeks to develop northern route. As a result, the port of Tiski is opening up. Located in the Sakha or Yakutia region, the port now expects to welcome foreign vessels.

Russia’s ambition is to create a deep-water port hub. It would handle 30 million tonnes of cargo a year.

Developing a northern route, a challenge for Russia

Announced on June 6, the opening of the harbour aims to strenghten Moscow’s presence in the Arctic. This would enable it to exploit the untapped potential of the Northern Sea Route. More generally, the Russian authorities explained their development plan for the North Sea. An investment of 22,8 billion of euros will be made over a 13-year period.

The majority of cargoes transported are liquefied natural gas, coal and iron ore. With the objective of development, northern roads are being opened up to freight transport.

In doing so, they are demonstrating their commitment to expanding international cooperation. Russia would then attract foreign investments, mostly to stimulate trade with African and Asian partners.

With Europe and much of the West cutting economic and diplomatic ties in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has been putting much emphasis on creating new links to clients.

To meet their expectations, 5 satellites have been launched into orbit. Their mission is to monitor weather conditions in the Arctic. This would facilitate navigation in these waters.

Environmental issues, a forgotten problem

But new naval routes in the Arctic is not all good news. It will increase the use of fossil fuels in the region. Accordingly, the impact on the climate will be exacerbate.

Greenhouse gas and black carbon emissions from ships will contribute to global warming. More shipping through the Arctic water will increase the risks of environmental disasters such as shipwrecks, oil spills and so on.

In addition, passage through ice will reduce the albedo effect. The albedo effect is the ability of a surface to reflect sunlight. Light-colored surfaces (high albedo) reflect more sunlight than dark-colored surfaces (low albedo). Thus, as sea ice disappears, the ocean surface, darker, will absorbs more solar radiations. In consequences, it will accelerate the warming process of water.

As the region warms and the sea ice melts, methane reserves in frozen hydrates on the sea bed and in permafrost will be destabilized. They could then release powerful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Climate change raise a number of questions. Is the ice included in the continental shelf ? As the ice melts, will territorial claims be limited ? Are international laws prepared for the political changes that climate change will bring ?

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