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December 12, 2016
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April 3, 2002
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Approved For Release 2002/05/09 : CIA-RDP84-00825R000100040006-6 THE NORTHERN SEA ROUTE Tlw 1967 navigation season on the Northern Sea Route ( NSR ) has been heralded by a Soviet announcement that transit of the route by commercial vessels of for- eign countries will be permitted this year for the first time. Foreign vessels have previously been permitted along only the western part of the route. Although the prospects for greatly expanded use of the route for through traffic this season appear to be dim, potential foreign users are not entirely lacking. The principal sig- nificance of the Soviet proposal may, however, be politi- cal. Since commercial vessels transiting the NSR must depend on the extensive Soviet icebreaking and weather forecasting services, foreign use of the route could serve to reinforce Soviet claims to sovereignty over the Arctic seas north of the USSR. Even if use by foreign vessels is limited, the announced opening of the route makes good propaganda for the USSR since it can be inter- preted in Japan and Europe as a Soviet willingness to extend areas of mutual cooperation. Also, on the 50th anniversary of Soviet rule it dramatically underscores Communist scientific-economic achievements in the polar regions. Historical Background The development of what is now the NSR dates back to the quest for a Northeast Passage to the Orient in the middle of the 16th century. Until the 1917 revolution the only portions of the route that were used regularly for navigation were largely in the hands of foreigners, often acting on the basis of concessions granted by the czarist government. The newly formed Soviet Govern- ment was interested in developing an efficient transpor- tation system along the northern. Siberian coast for both economic and strategic reasons. It was felt that the resources of an enormous area of hitherto unexploitable territory could be tapped if the river mouths along the Siberian shore were made regularly accessible to mari- time.shipping. Furthermore, such a route would enable Soviet ships to pass between European and Asiatic USSR without crossing foreign, potentially hostile waters and indeed. almost without losing sight Of the Soviet coast. In 1920 a special committee for the NSR (Komscvero- put') was created for the purpose of organizing and supervising trading ventures through the Kara Sea to the estuaries of ? the OW and Yenisey rivers. These experi- ments in commercial exploitation of the route, known as the Kara Expeditions, were successful enough to en- courage more extensive investment in the Arctic. As part of the massive administrative reorganization that occurred during the First Five Year Plan a new gov- ernment .department?the Chief Administration of the Northern Sea Route (Glaysevmorpue--GUSMP)?was created in 1932 to develop, equip, and maintain an Arctic sealane. Carrying out its mission in the 1930's, GUSNIP constructed port facilities at 11 Arctic settle- ments, formed an icebreaker fleet, established extensive weather- and ice-forecasting facilities, and developed staging, dispatching, and controlling procedures for shipping. To increase its knowledge of the Arctic en- vironment and to train Arctic specialists, GUSMP set up its own research and training organizations, including the Arctic Scientific Research Institute and the Hydro- graphic Institute. At the same time GUSMP also sought to stimulate northern economic development by conduct- ing geological explorations for minerals and operating numerous mining, fishing, and agricultural enterprises. GUSMP's empire expanded until 1938, when it extended over more than a quarter of the USSR and controlled a labor force of approximately 35,000 persons. In following years, the Soviet Government gradually dissolved the once omnipotent GUSMP by shifting its many functions to appropriate ministries. Although some of these changes have coincided with "bad" years on the sea route, they more likely reflect an attitude that the route had developed into a normal shipping operation and hence should be managed in a routine way. The Ministry of the 'Maritime Fleet is now re- sponsible for overall operations on the NSB; its Ice- breaker and Arctic Fleet Administration in Murtnansk has direct control of navigation on the route. Shipping on the northern rivers is controlled by the Ministry of the River Fleet. Weather and ice forecasting, as well as Arctic scientific research, is the primary responsibility of the Main Administration of the Hydrometcorological Service. The Polar Department of the Ministry of Civil Aviation is responsible for all nonmilitary air operations in the Arctic. Description of Route and Navigation Season The NSR extends some 3,400 nautical miles* from the Barents Sea in the west to the Bering Sea in the east, passing through a series of seas and straits but mostly lying close to the barren Arctic mainland or the offshore islands (sec main map). Ships generally move from the Barents Sea to the Kara Sea through the Kara Strait (Proliv Karskiye Vorota ), which is 18 miles wide. At times the 1.5-mile-wide Yugorskiy Strait (Proliv Yugorskiv Shar ) to the south can also be used, and in some years ships can go around the northern end of Novaya Zemlya. Passage from the Kara Sea to the Laptev Sea is made through the Vinitskiy Strait (Proliv Borisa Villitskogo), where four small islands restrict the width to 22 miles. Between the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea, pas- sage is through either the Laptev Strait (Proliv Dmitriva Lapteva ), 27 miles wide, near the mainland or the Salmi- kov Strait (Proliv Sannikova), 31 miles wide, to the north. From the East Siberian Sea, passage to the Chtikehi Sea is made via Long Strait (Proliv Longa)?at 58 miles. the widest strait on the route?and thence through the Bering Strait. The eastern and western segments of the NSR are generally navigable to merchant ships for about 4 months annually, from early July through late October. Ice conditions along the central portion of the route, how- ever, limit the period during which transit of the NSR is feasible to a maximum of 8 to 10 weeks, usually com- mencing in August. Throughout the season, traffic is heaviest at the eastern and western ends of the route; relatively few Soviet cargo ships transit the entire route. The warming influence of the Gulf Stream usually opens the western end of the route. first. Operations generally begin in mid-June, with an icebreaker cutting a path through the Kara Sea to the estuary of the Yenisey River. Merchant ships follow in convoys of 2 to 10 vessels calling at the ports of Nar'van-Nlar, Novyy Port. Dikson, Dudinka, and Igarka. Some go as far as Nord- vik and Tiksi. * Nautical utiles are tywd fit this luvituiraiuluiu. Approved For Release 2002/050tatktRDP84-00825R000100040006-6 THE NOr1THERN SEA ROUTE Approved For Release 2002/05/09 : CIA-RDP84-00825R000100040006-6 At the eastern end of the route, where ice conditions are gemierallv more difficult, convoys assemble and start out from late June. Pcvck is the desti- nation for most of these ships, although sonic traffic reachcs .1inlmarehik and points as far \vest as Tiksi. At the port il Tiksi ocean cargo from time west and river argo irom the south is transferred to lighters and ,oastal ve,,sels serving a number of smaller ports nearby. .11 "small pork at the mouths of navigable rivers, also, 11,z./) is transferred to river ships and barges. The is officially declared open sometime during (11/? fina If of Angus( when the major shipping lanes 1,5 , 1), r f.; by either icebreakers or the reced- /e- NaVigation conditions usually are t,) 10 weeks, during which 100 to 150 wider\vav along the route. Sailing time from hoyideniva during.this period ranges from Approved 56649 7-67 15 to 25 days, depending on ice conditions. Near the end of the navigation season each year a convoy of Soviet naval vessels transfers units eastward to the Pacific fleet. The naval convoy has occasionally been hung up by the ice and forced to remain in the Arctic over the winter. 'The length of the navigation season, as well as the movement of traffic on the route, is controlled by the extent and thickness of sea ice, and this varies from year to year. Within a navigation season, weather may de- teriorate and bottlenecks !MIN' develop nnexpectedls. usu- ally in the narrow straits. Even in more open ,mreas a shift in NVind and sea currents can quieklv move large concentrations of sea ice into shipping lanes and com- pletely curtail navigation. Persistent fogs that are com- mon during the summer, as well as scattered shoals. fur- ther hamper navigation. For Release 2002/05/09 : CIA-RDP84-00825R000100040006-6 Approved For Release 2002/05/09 : CIA-RDP84-00825R000100040006-6 Novicfcition Scirvices cmcl Scientific R(!secirch To ()pekoe .1 reliable shippintr, tout(' in the extremel haish \t II ;15 1FO1IIIUIlt the Soviets 11.1%?;? node (vital imt \Hato in supporting.. 'Al `?1`:!. 11:1\ till e?-.111111idllnen1 ot a pot% (11111 and 1?111Cient tient 01 1('Cilre'd kelf: 111(1 t1;111.-,p0i ic.ebreal.)crs, inclialing the 20.200- 10a-se1111\vc.1 iiitc?lear-pcnverecl icebreaker Lenin %vhich was init 01 cialunission in Itt(i6). E;clicr;111\' osctl liii tilt' Font(' to (Toll St'AlaliCti cooSoV \1111),,Ti I iict't c?ope wit II paiL ce floes that during the sum- mer may remain 10 or rnore feet thick. la; Sit\ iets ?:Cis() plan t%vt) additional .8(),(10(1-liorsepo%%?ei- nta1cor-iiii%%? ic.elireakers ancl tkirce IlelV conventional icebreakers li%? 1I171. Since II/62 six ..1iii,t/(?r1hic.lass Ii- ll1l'uikl'l transptats have licen pi;t into operation in the polar seas. These Ile\V \ IS N\ (s11 is older LC/01- (111S,-; VeNtiek, C1111 11.:15.11 111e NS11 %vithout contititimis ice 1irc;&(.1. support. In light ic.o tla.%. can act ;is ieelIreakeis for oilier ships. A large net%%.cirk staticais ;tral %%?cotlier stations 11(15 1)10.11 to pro%?icle essential current report Mg and long-r;crige forecasts of %%?etither dial ice condi- titins, as %%?ell as to peilorm 11a510 pi?('s('nt I()() 1)01a1' staticins, including 5 t)bser5.1 torics, mal:e ineteca.t)lc)gic;11, livdroiogioil, nal in cases ge(iplivsi(.;11 c)l)ser\?;itions 1)11.0 i?egular basis. stations )11.c. Icicatecl riot ()lily along the noinlatal lint also in the islands, as far 1110-th at 81'?1.1'N. Survcillanc.e of ice ecinclitions is ;iccomplislicd both 1)% ;tireraft based at some 50 airfields anti 1)%? helicopters that operate directly off the decks of icelircal:ers. craft ?lisen?et.s ticlvise icelir('alers ;old merchant ships 1)1 local ic.c concliticals clirect them to /ones of 1111111- 11111111 lee e()11('elltrati(111 and heads hrongli the ice. gioiiuilice 1.e110115 anti clorts ;ire c?timpilecl ;it land loses ;nal transmitted 1)%. %?()i(.c. and phon)facsimile to vessels oil the 1-ciute, ice-%%?eittlic.r forecasting. sci?va.e. as %yell as 'the icelirettl:er fleet, is ;tclministereti limn tlie thic.e niajor pc)rts-Dikson for Hie western sec?tor, Tiksi for the ectiti?ttl sector, and l'eyek for. (lie eicstern sector. A liN?clrogi?apIlic? ser%?ic.(' lia.S alsi) 11e1.11 actively (forting shallow \vitters ;titcl providing lights ;nal in itivage. Th(.' t 5511 is ('011(1(1(1 lug an ;umbilicals j)rograniIll losic sckentifie researc.11 on the Aretic cm?iron milli, largely uncler the clirection tlh. 11.c.tic and .1ittitrc?tic. Scientific. liesetirch Institute (i)rigitialf., the Arctic. Sc.i('ntific;irch Institute). This program (.111c1es maintenance of the much pi 1(111111(1 drift ice stations ;mei ;iirla?irne c.xpc.clitions in th, Polar Basin. At the drift stations. tc.:tins scientist.; ;Hid \l'Orker early out Inete(11'(>101,1J('111, 0('I'11111/(.2,1'111\11I(', 1111(1 geoph%?sical ica is throughout the year. ();)1%? 0111. clrift station ,\ Pole 15, is presentl%? in operatical, North l'olc I 1> is set lip Illlie m111,11111 1()(;7". Thc,11-1?tit?(11. ?jilm?.nt, pe(111 1011: 111111111t11V 7l'1011/1)1V 1111(1 IC1111111 the drift St a 1111115 and also land parties tii.ccillec.t sc.h.tilifie data Irian ill 1111(1 stations throng:limit the basin_ Airlya-ne iechri.:;11;er .tc,-ronps ;11s11 set out 1)rifting Nfeteciroica,c_ic.;(1 Statii)11.-, I 1)A1INIS's) 1)rilling .11ito Hddio 1)?.;;cons I 1)A11 on the ic?epack?. it.c, lit vcinters tra%-crses ha %-e 1111'11 11111(1c. 011 10o; and IS \ I 11(11, 0\ IT the paek lun OH the Co:1'd Ill nelltr?i1 11111 ?}11ff'r IA 10 Nt MIN' 1)01 II ct' (1111.11111c', ,I lid \?111010;11in;i1 011dit 10115. .111(?\t? pl(n2:1'alin: Ill I SO I'll 1011111i1?111111 ',n;111'11 1111\ e 1 Well (If 1l1', If Li I a liii Ill twoi Ii (In till NSIt and in eooskoviio,c, WI 1,-. in die Ai-clic. .1 cliicS I '11111 t IIIIll '0:111 !lin 0pc1A1101i,11 :Apt 1 1(11:,' !!?.1111cd , 10,11(,11/11, 111, 11,15 `-?115 II 1 1,11 'jilt 11i \ itl 11111', HUH, .0111 11.15e ,,11( Litton: In ,o11111 T111 coast Approved .khe direct economic costs ot ;t11 Arctic operations have Lien high three to lour limes more than co..ts of bill. lilt 1001: in the developed areas to the south. To T1' 1(011 perS01111e1, Wat4('S 11111tit 111C1Ilde Spreial 11ellefilti and area 11110\1?1111CeS and arc about 1.5 to 2.5 limes higher than in developed areas. 'Machines and equipment are also more expensive because they wear faster, even though many are specially designed for operation at low temperatures. Use of Route The Soviet decision to permit transit of the NMI foreign cargo vessels and simultaneously to initiate a new Soviet cargo liner service between Europe and Japan ..was undoubtedlv motivated ill part by the desire to obtain sonic revenue from the enormous' Soviet in- vestment in polar operations. Prospects for any greatly expanded foreign use of the NSII, however, appear to be limited. Althongh the distance between %vestern Europe and Far Eastern ports north of I long Kong is shorter via the NS] I than via the Snez Canal, the route's trade potential ks greatly reduced by its short season and the physical dif- ficulties of navigation in the Arctic. An example is the trip between Idindon and Yol?)hama, which is 3.500 miles shorter via the NSR than via the Suez Canal (see map and graph at night). The Soviets claim this distance ad- vantage would effect a saying of 1:3 days' travel time lw- twccil the two ports, but Norwegian shipowners feel that the lower speeds through the ice would shorten the run by only 8 days. Any savings would be substantially offset by tlic high insurance rates that prevail for Arctic navigation and by the icebreaker-aerial reconnaissance service and pilotage fees that the Soviets intend to charge. A preliminary figure quoted to the Japanese bv the Soviets for icebreaker services is $1.3,000 for 0 7,000- ton general cargo Vessel. Such a vessel would pay a fee of about .37,000 to transit tile Suez Canal. Other fac- tors partly offsetting the distance advantage of the route include the short navigation season, the necessity of following a long, dangerous shipping lane, the finan- cial hazard of possible ice entrapment. ;nal the instilli- cient service and repair facilities available. Vessels using the NSII may love to carry additional reserve stores, and some rimy require structural modifications to withstand ice conditions. Furthermore, the NSR pro- vides little or no opportunity for intermediate trade slops, a major source of income for some shipowners. Even with these drawbacks the new/ route might elicit some interest in northern Europe, where distaiwe sayings 111;1%. be great enough to make the trip profitable. Ship- ping?between a port in northern Nonyay--Kirkencs for example---and Japan would realize up to a ;15 percent saying in distanue by using the NSII. For the whose economy depends so heavily on the import- or raw materials. die NISII may offer several trade Oppor- 11111itieS. 11'1? 5.11(11 11ti 11011 OW 110111 1101111er/1 NOrW11V. apatite 110111 the 1 C,C,H K0111 :111(1 e0111 11'0111 Poland suitable bulk cargo for the route. The \sr, is mdikriv It 11fmct shipowners from staid RIO 11111?, 1)ef'01151' the dkkillee tO the Orient is about the same ;Is through the Sta./ Canal. Shipowners handling the 10.115 s volima? of trade between the east coast of the Fnited States and Japan aru also unlikolv Ill ill' intcrustcd Ill I rudlict ion in distancc ;Worded Iry using die V-di rather than the Panama Canal, III addition to providin,.z, ii seasonal capallility F, iii lu II IS \ 1111. \'S Ii t;) and 1111111 the I-)ci\ \relic. Freight turnover for the rook. flow 1:4;.000 tole, in 1083 to ;)\?cr 3.000.000 tons ill 101;11 1 II; \?...;1: lic:11 instrumental iii cyloiting 111111,1 1%i along the 1 ( insev and 1 .1?11d 115 oh LI For Release 2002/05/09 : CIA-RDP84-00825R000100040006-6 Approved For Release 2002/05/09 : CIA-RDP84-00825R000100040006-6 il(ThIslISii NO111.Sk, and 1ln 1.1(TOSI I s 11e;11 Th(' inIllIstrV, 5511(11 dt:C(111111S lor 1 11(' 111,11.)1. ((I 1(11C CTOFIS, is (V/ItCred Vciiiw\. port of Igarka. \\ here Ss it ell as l',IitiS11 and S( 1lndilSIVi1l11 Ill 'r ships (all