”The North-East Passage is already a fact”

Myllylä, Yrjö (2011). The North-East Passage is already a fact. Baltic Rim Economies 2/2011.

BRE 2,2011

The increasing interest of the great powers in the northern areas shows that the North is moving from the periphery to focal point. U.S.A., Russia, Canada, and Norway have updated their strategies in the Arctic region since 2008. Finland’s strategy for the Arctic was ready in the summer of 2010, and the preparation of EU’s strategy for Arctic is a topical issue. The increased importance of the North has wide ranging impacts. There is a need to understand the real factors affecting the development, and pay attention to what we can control.

The great powers updating their strategies, climate change is only one reason for the increasing interest in the Arctic Region and the North-East Passage, other factors are more important. First of all, the collapse of the Soviet Union can be mentioned, which has moved the interest of Russia being the world’s by surface largest state and by far the largest arctic state more and more north as the southern oil-producing countries became independent. Russia needs the North and the North-East Passage.

Secondly, the growth of the global economic should be mentioned and its impact on the prices on the limited raw materials, such as oil and other mineral. The third important factor is technology, especially transportation technology development – the new cost-saving transport system and other solutions create key conditions for exploitation of Arctic´s natural resources – items that we are able to control. With these changes for example Murmansk, being North-West Russia´s only ocean port and central nodal point of the North-East Passage is becoming increasingly important in the long term as a centre of the energy industry and logistics, with a radiation also to Finland.

The price of crude oil cleaned from cyclic variations has risen since the 1950s in today’s money terms. In addition to the increase of raw material, price innovations of transport technology are needed to mobilize oil and other natural resources. The Finnish planning companies, such as Aker Arctic, a subsidiary of STX Finland, have been in a key position:
For example, the world’s first oil transportation system operating in icy waters was introduced in the summer of 2008 in Varandei, situated in Pechora Sea in the north-eastern part of Europe. Without the assistance of ice-breakers, vessels transport oil along the North-East Passage to the mouth of the Murmansk fjord being ice-free all year round, where oil further is reloaded into ocean going vessels. The oil is transported to China along traditional trade routes. In the vicinity of Varandei an oil rig will also be completed in the Prirazlomnoye oil field in the summer of 2011, when oil drilling the Arctic Ocean begins. The oil of the field will be transported from Murmansk along the North-East Passage using Finnish-designed and already manufactured vessels.

The regular use of North-East Passage without the assistance of an ice-breaker was a fact already in 2006, when the Helsinki shipyard completed the first ore carrier ship designed by Aker Arctic and which was able to traffic the North-East Passage independently.
The vessel-Norilsk Nickel-named after the purchasing company, was an innovation.
It passes through the ice in North-East Passage without any assistance of ice-breakers in regular traffic from Dudinka situated at Yenisey River arm in Siberia to Murmansk. The main ice obstacles are passed by going astern, where for example the Azipod ® drive system innovated by ABB and Wärtsilä will provide essential help. Another innovation is also ore and container transportation on the same vessel. Capital goods and consumer goods are then transported as return cargo. Four sister ships were constructed in shipyards in Germany as Finnish Shipyards at that time were giving priority to the production of cruising ships. In the summer of 2010 eight cargo ships came through the North-East Passage from one end to the other. By the end of January 2011, orders had been placed for the summer for more than 20 vessels for oil, gas and steel cargo.

The Finns can be considered are the world’s most Arctic people. According to some sources, approximately 60% of the world’s population living north of Helsinki are Finns. Our nation is enriched by northern technological know-how of ice-breakers as well as trains, tram ways and other means of transportation operating in snowy and cold conditions. This fact was also realised by the Russians, when founding the new Arctech Helsinki Shipyard together with the Russian United Ship-building Corporation and STX Finland in December 2010. However, arctic technological demand is not only confined to Russia. China is also interested in the northern natural resources. Technology applied to cold weather is needed over the whole Northern Europe and even in South Africa. At the moment, a research vessel for Antarctic representing a new generation and ordered by the South African environmental administration is under construction.

North-East Passage is not expected to melt. For example, according to the latest satellite data from 2011 the maximum extent of the ice in the Arctic Ocean has been more or less in line with the long-term average. We need to develop the technological know-how for inclement weather conditions, and keep the advanced position of the Baltic Sea countries as a co-operation between the countries also in the future. The Baltic Sea region is a key energy transport corridor. The Baltic Sea freezes in winter, at least partially. It provides a development platform for the products needed also for the upper Arctic Ocean region. The Baltic Sea Region can be used as a product development platform for example for ice- breaking and oil protecting vessels as well as for other transport, energy and environmental technology products operating in ice. There will be a growing market for these products in, for example the Arctic Ocean, where the oil transport is increasing. The coastal countries around the Baltic Sea could place innovative orders as South Africa did and order oil protecting equipment in the name of environmental protection. These products have a growing market in for example in the Arctic Ocean, with its increasing oil transports. The Baltic Sea countries should be active trying also to incorporate the themes of arctic transport, energy and environmental technology in the EU´s research Framework Programmes. For example the so called Aurora Borealis-research vessel project for the arctic region planned with the aid of EU and Russia and Framework Programme should be continued.

Finland could also in the future play an important role in the development of the arctic transport, energy and environmental technology. In Finland, the Parliamentary Committee for the Future has produced during the year 2010 a report entitled ”Russia 2030 based on Contracts” (editors Osmo Kuusi & Hanna Smith & Paula Tiihonen). In the context the Committee for the future has formed a statement: ”Finland must draft a Research and Development Programme for the Development in Finland of Arctic Transport, Energy and Environmental Technology

Yrjö Myllylä
Doctor of Social Sciences
Senior Researcher
Finland Futures Research Centre
University of Turku

(Artikkelin sisältö suomeksi/See also Finnish article Koillisväylän käyttö on jo tosiasia: TS 260411, Alakerta)

Kategoria(t): 1. ALUEKEHITYS, 2. TULEVAISUUDEN ENNAKOINTI, 3. STRATEGIAPROSESSIT, 4. Osaamis- ja koulutustarpeiden ennakointi, 5. Koillisväylä, Arktinen meriteknologia, 6. Kaivostoiminta, 7. Logistiikka ja yhteydet, 8. Energia ja ympäristö, 9.1 Matkailu, 9.2 Kauppa, rakentaminen, ICT, hyvinvointi, palvelut, IN ENGLISH, O. YHDYSKUNTASUUNNITTELU JA MAANKÄYTTÖ Avainsana(t): , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Lisää kestolinkki kirjanmerkkeihisi.


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