Before taking part in the G20 summit in Hamburg in July this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping stopped in Moscow, where he and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the Joint China-Russia Declaration on the Further Strengthening of a Comprehensive Strategic and Cooperative Partnership. The declaration suggests that the Northern Sea Route is a strategic area of cooperation between China and Russia, the official part of the Chinese infrastructure project "One Belt and One Way". For its part, Russia is investing heavily in the development of new ports and LNG transportation infrastructure along the route to serve the growing sea traffic passing through its Arctic territorial waters.
The Russian Federation creates an economic infrastructure that will become an alternative to the Suez Canal on the path between Europe and Asia. In addition, thanks to this, huge deposits of undeveloped resources, including oil, gas, diamonds and other minerals located in the exclusive economic zone of the Russian Federation, are being discovered.
Officially, Russian legislation defines the Northern Sea Route as territorial waters along the Arctic coast of Russia to the east of Novaya Zemlya in the Arkhangelsk region, from the Kara Sea and to the Bering Strait, which divides Russia and Alaska. The entire route lies in the Arctic waters and within the exclusive economic zone.
Preliminary geophysical studies confirm the existence of extensive oil and gas reserves along the Northern Sea Route in the waters of the Russian exclusive economic zone, which increases the interest of the Chinese government in the joint development of resources. For China, which sees a growing threat to its maritime routes of oil supply from the Persian Gulf through the Malacca Strait, the Northern Sea Route will be a much safer alternative, a kind of plan B, in the event of a military US invasion of the strait.
According to the US Geological Survey, about 30% of all oil and 66% of natural gas produced in the Arctic are located within the Russian exclusive economic zone. The geological service assumes that the total reserves of the Arctic make up one third of the total reserves of Saudi Arabia.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), signed by Russia and China and not signed by the United States, defines the exclusive economic zone as "lying outside and adjacent" to the territorial waters of the state and granting it "sovereign rights ... [to] the management of natural resources "Within the zone. China does not challenge Russia's rights, but seeks to cooperate, now officially in the framework of the One-Way and One-Way project.
New sea trade routes
Interest in the Northern Sea Route of Russia is also strengthened by the fact that delivery will become more economical and faster. In August of this year, during the trial flight, the Russian tanker for the transportation of liquefied gas "Christophe de Margerie" delivered Norwegian LNG from Hammerfest (Norway) to Poren (South Korea) in just 19 days, which is about 30% faster than the usual route through The Suez Canal, despite the fact that the ship was forced to pass through a drifting ice thickness of 1,2 meters. Part of the route, running through the Arctic Sea, was overcome in six and a half days. "Christophe de Margerie" is the world's first vessel combining a tanker for the transport of liquefied gas and an icebreaker. It was built by a South Korean company according to the specification of the Russian state Sovcomflot for transportation of gas produced by the Yamal LNG project in the Russian part of the Arctic.
Russia is also cooperating with South Korea in developing navigational capabilities of its Northern Sea Route. 6 November Minister of Development of the Far East of Russia Alexander Galushka met with the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries of South Korea Kim Yong-suk. The countries agreed to conduct joint research on investments in the transport of goods along the Northern Sea Route. Joint development will include shipping nodes that will be built at both ends of the Northern Sea Route - in Murmansk in the west and in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the east. Murmansk, located at the borders of Finland and Norway, has around the clock ice-free access to the Barents Sea.
Korean Hyundai Merchant Marine is planning to test container vessels on the Northern Sea Route in 2020 year, while it is planned to use container ships capable of carrying 2500-3500 TEU (equivalent to 20-foot containers). In July 2016, the historical dispatch of large industrial parts from South Korea to the new Russian Arctic port in Sabetta took place, and from there along the Ob and Irtysh rivers to Tobolsk in the Southern Urals.
New investments in the Arctic port
Murmansk is one of the largest infrastructure projects in Russia. At present, construction work is under way to complete the so-called Murmansk transport hub, which includes new automobile and railway highways, ports and other facilities in the west of the Kola Bay. Murmansk is already a key center for the supply of coal, oil, fish, metals and other goods from the European part of Russia. It will serve as the main western gateway to the Northern Sea Route to Asia.
The Russian Federation is also completing the construction of a new port in Sabetta on the Yamal Peninsula. On Yamal, washed by the arctic Kara Sea, are the largest in Russia natural gas reserves, the volume of which is estimated at 55 trillion cubic meters. For comparison, the gas reserves in Qatar are estimated at 25 trillion cubic meters, and in Iran - at 34 trillion. The main developers of the port of Sabetta on Yamal are Novatek, the largest independent gas producer in Russia, and the Russian government.
The port of Sabetta is also part of the new Yamal LNG terminal, through which, by the end of this year, Yamal gas will be transported along the Northern Sea Route to China. When operating at full capacity, the port will handle 30 million tons of gas per year, making it the world's largest port north of the Arctic Circle - larger than Murmansk. Novatek has already sold all volumes of gas production to Yamal LNG within 15 and 20-year contracts, concluded mainly with China and other Asian buyers.
Yamal LNG is not the only area where Russian Novatek cooperates with China. 4 November Novatek announced the signing of additional agreements with partners of Yamal China National Petroleum Corporation and China Development Bank for the project Arctic LNG - 2, which is potentially larger than Yamal LNG. The construction of the Arctic LNG - 2 on the Gydan Peninsula should begin in 2019.
The cost of the Yamal LNG project is $ 27 billion. When in 2014 after the Crimean referendum the financial attack of the US Treasury touched Novatek and Yamal LNG, Chinese lenders provided $ 12 billion to complete the project after the state-owned CNPC bought 20 % of its shares. The Chinese Silk Road Fund owns another 9,9%, the share of France is 20%, the share of Novatek is 50,1%.
Breaking the ice is in Russian
Realization of the potential of the Northern Sea Route of Russia for gas transit and commercial transportation from the west along the Arctic coast to South Korea, China and the rest of Asia requires non-standard technological solutions, primarily for the construction of icebreakers and port infrastructure along the route with record low temperatures. In this area, Russia is an unprecedented world leader.
At the beginning of 2016, Russia ordered the production of a new class of nuclear icebreakers called the "Arctic", which are managed by Atomflot, the shipboard division of the Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom, the world's largest nuclear power company. Rosatom produces 40% of enriched uranium and ranks second in terms of production in the world.
Icebreakers of the "Arctic" class are currently the most powerful icebreakers in the world of this type. When in 2019 the first of them will be ready for swimming, it can break ice up to 3 meters. The second nuclear icebreaker "Arctic" should be launched in 2020. At present, in Russia, a total of 14 diesel and nuclear icebreakers are being built in addition to the recently launched Christophe de Margerie. All these icebreakers are being built at the shipyard in the St. Petersburg area.
Rosatom goes ahead
The Russian government intends to significantly improve the level of icebreaker construction technologies in order to make the development of navigation and the development of resources along the Northern Sea Route a national economic priority.
In 2016, President Vladimir Putin personally took control of the creation of an ultramodern shipbuilding center in Primorsky Krai to balance the development of western shipyards in the St. Petersburg area and spur the growth of Russia's economic region around Vladivostok. The Russian economy, responding to Washington and its sanctions, is becoming increasingly self-sufficient in vital areas.
Far Eastern shipbuilding will focus on the complete reconstruction of the shipyard Zvezda in Bolshoy Kamen, which belongs to the Russian state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation. The project will cost $ 4 billion. The Primorsky Territory also serves as the base for the Pacific Fleet of the Russian Navy. When the modernization of the plant is completed in 2020, it will become the largest in Russia and the most modern non-military ship repair plant and will specialize in the construction of large-capacity tankers, including LNG tankers, Arctic icebreakers and elements for offshore oil and gas platforms.
18 November, the Russian business newspaper Kommersant announced that Vladimir Putin wants to transfer the development of infrastructure for the Northern Sea Route to the control of the state atomic corporation Rosatom. According to the article, Putin approved the idea of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, according to which all state services dealing with navigation and infrastructure development, as well as state property used in the development of the route, are transferred to the management of Rosatom. The decision that "Rosatom" bears sole responsibility for the development of the Northern Sea Route demonstrates that nuclear icebreakers will play a very large role in the development of the route.
According to the report, which has not yet been officially presented, Rosatom was offered a new key role in the project by its head Alexei Likhachev and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. Rogozin, who was under Washington's sanctions, is deputy prime minister for the defense industry of Russia since 2011. If the proposal is accepted at the official level, Rosatom will supervise all infrastructure and construction throughout the 6000 kilometers of the route through its new Arctic unit. According to the source, this will mean that Rosatom will control practically everything from construction of ports and communication and navigation infrastructure to scientific research.
According to the plan, the new Arctic branch of Rosatom centralizes the management of ports that were previously controlled by the Ministry of Transport, as well as non-nuclear icebreakers operated by Rosmorport, and the Russian fleet of nuclear icebreakers. The administration of the Northern Sea Route, the state agency responsible for the safety of navigation, will also become part of this new Arctic division of Rosatom. This will be a step towards a significant simplification of management of various aspects of the development of the transport infrastructure of the Northern Sea Route, which is one of Moscow's top priorities and a key link in the development of China-Russia cooperation within the One-Way and One-Way project.
Taking into account all of the above, it becomes obvious that Russia is developing advanced technologies and infrastructure under extreme climatic conditions, rebuilding its economy and doing it very successfully, cooperating with China, South Korea and even to some extent with Japan, contrary to the expectations of thirsty the war of the Washington neo-conservatives and their patrons in the US military-industrial complex.