Russia Teams with China for Development of the Northern Sea Route

Russia is seeking Chinese collaboration to enhance the development of its Northern Sea Route (NSR). During a state visit to the Chinese city of Harbin, Rosatom’s head, Alexei Likhachev, briefed President Putin on the formation of a Russian-Chinese sub-commission dedicated to this initiative.

“A decision has been made to establish a joint commission for the development of the Northern Sea Route. Our objective is to swiftly create a joint program to expand Chinese transit along the Northern Sea Route,” Likhachev detailed.

Likhachev emphasized that Chinese transit through the NSR could potentially reach 50 million tons by 2030. To achieve this, forging a partnership with China to construct Arctic vessels and develop ports and logistic centers is essential.

In 2022, President Putin designated the state-owned nuclear agency Rosatom to oversee the development of the NSR and manage the icebreaking fleet crucial for navigation along this route. The 3,500-mile NSR is a strategic economic priority for the Kremlin, aiming to bolster Russian influence in the Arctic.

The sea route extends along the Russian Arctic coast from the Kara Sea to the Bering Strait in the Far East, promising to halve the travel time between Europe and Far Eastern ports compared to the Suez Canal route.

Rosatom has reported progress in cargo shipments along the NSR, with a new record of 35 million tons in 2022, surpassing the previous record of 34.1 million tons in 2021. The increasing demand for Russian crude oil in China has driven this growth. In 2023, approximately 1.5 million tons of crude oil were transported from the Baltic Sea to China via the Arctic route.

Simultaneously, the governor of the Russian northern region of Arkhangelsk, Aleksandr Tsybulsky, visited the Chinese port city of Dalian. Tsybulsky urged shippers at the Port of Dalian to utilize the NSR, as his region seeks to develop Arkhangelsk Port into a key hub for Russian Arctic shipping.

“Our aim is to increase shipping volumes with Chinese ports, including Dalian. There has already been a significant rise in the number of ships sailing from Shanghai to Arkhangelsk via the far northern route. This summer, up to 12 ships are expected to travel from Shanghai to Arkhangelsk,” Tsybulsky stated.

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