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Review of Shipping Activities in the Arctic

The Review of Shipping Activities in the Arctic was prepared for EPPR by the Ministry of Russian Federation of Civil Defense on Extreme Situations and Liquidation of Environmental Calamities (EMERCOM). This report was constructed to develop a strategy for safe transport of oil along the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and the rivers of Russia. A link to the report summary and Table of Contents, and an excerpt from the report “Current Russian preparedness and response to Combating Oil Spills (COS) in the Arctic Region” are provided here. Although the volume on the NSR has decreased, volume on the river routes which supply petroleum and petroleum products inland is increasing. Tankers plying the NSR are ice reinforced and equipped with double hulls or bottoms. The shallow draft vessels used in river transport are, however, of an old design and age and for the main part do not have a double bottom. These present a high level of risk since the rivers are characterized by shoals and ice. Marine drilling activity in the Barents and Kara Seas are potential risk factors. Urgent needs are modernization of the river transport fleet and at-sea clean up equipment, especially with the added complication of sea and river ice. For the latter, research and development is required by all Arctic nations.

Summary of “Review”

The purpose of this report is to develop a strategy on ecologically safe transportation of oil in the Arctic seas and rivers. The shoreline is not included in this report. The study is based on the review of the existing, as well as of the planned routes and volumes for transportation for crude oil, oil products and lubricants in the Russian Arctic. The study shows the scheme for oil supplies to the Arctic area by sea routes from the West (Murmansk, Archangel), or from the East (Nakhodka, Providenie). The volumes of the oil transported by sea for consumption in the Arctic region have decreased drastically in the recent years and are not expected to increase in the near future. The data presented to demonstrate the directions and volumes for oil import to the Russian Arctic is for 1994.

The Arctic Region received oil by means of sea traffic, and from the Central Siberia via the Ob’ and the Enisei. In the other rivers oil is transported upstream using river tankers loading from sea tankers. The volumes of the river traffic have not decreased, on the contrary, they tend to increase. Diesel fuel, petrol and kerosene fuel are transported most often to the Arctic coastal points.

The total volume of the coasting and inter-coasting transport is estimated to be about 1,500,000 tonnes per year. Approximately 1,000,000 tonnes are exported from the Arctic region at the present time. The main items of export are crude oil and refined oil products from Murmansk and Archangel. These products are delivered to these ports by railway from the northwestern and central Russia, as well as minor volumes of crude oil and condensed gas from island Kolguev and the Ob’s basin. This traffic will increase in the immediate future and will exceed 4,000,000 tonnes by the end of this century. The surplus will come mainly from the Timono-Pechora region (crude oil) in particular from the Prirazlomnoje field. Transportation of liquefied natural gas, combination oil gases and methanol will enjoy a drastic (100 times) increase in the start of the next century.

Tankers of L1 ice class are used for transportation in the Arctic inland waterways. Most of them are equipped with double hulls or double bottoms. These tankers present the least threat to the environment. At the same time, transportation of oil between Eastern Arctic ports and via the Siberian rivers is mainly carried out by outdated ships with no double bottom. These present high danger to the environment because of the high risk of an oil spill. New ships with double hulls are going to be used in the future transportation of oil, natural gas and condensed gas, since these ships are more efficient in terms of prevention and preparedness for oil spills in case of collision or stranding.

Besides the floating sources of hazard, such as tankers further sources will appear in the nearest future – drilling platforms. Based on the CNIIMF’s (Central Marine Research & Design Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia) method, expected volumes of oil spills, as well as expenditures needed to ensure ecological safety of the sea transportation and oil production in the Arctic region were calculated.

The strategy for ecological safety in based upon:

1. Existing system of prevention, preparedness and response. We suggest keeping the system. However, further modernization is required due to the increased volumes of transportation.

2. Liability of ship owners and oil production companies in terms of prevention, preparedness and combating small oil spills. The parameters and requirements for their systems are included in this report.

Table of Contents in “Review”


List of abbreviations


  1. Transportation of oil in the Arctic region
    1. Major routes of oil transportation
    2. River transportation of oil
    3. Outlook for Arctic oil operations
  2. 1.1 Current state of oil transportation in the Arctic region

  3. General description of the natural conditions of the Arctic navigation
  4. Oil tankers and LNG carries
    1. Vessels for the planned oil transportation from the Arctic Western Sector
    2. Gas carriers
  5. 3.1. Existing tankers

  6. Emergency situations
    1. Tanker accidents
    2. Evaluation of probability for emergency outflow
    3. Environmental impacts of oil spills in the Arctic area
  7. 4.1. Identification of high-risk areas for oil spills

5. Strategy on environmental safety in the Arctic

    5.1 Identification of oil spills
    5.2. Behavior of oil spills5.3. Current Russian preparedness and response system for combating oil spill (COS) in the Arctic region 5.4. Future strategy of ensuring COS at sea5.4.1. Arrangement of COS operations at sea5.4.2. Contingency planning5.4.3. Equipment required to improve COS5.4.4. COS in ice

Conclusions and proposals


Excerpt from “Review”, relating to preparedness

5.3. Current Russian Preparedness and response for combating oil spills (COS) in the Arctic Region

The existing system for prevention, preparedness and response to COS in the Russian Arctic has been established in the late 70s – early 80s. It was based on facilities of the state-owned shipping companies. The Murmansk Shipping Company is responsible for the COS in the Western Arctic. The Far East Shipping Company is responsible for COS in the Eastern Arctic. Specialized units equipped with the COS equipment are attached to these companies. In order to strengthen the central control, the State Marine Pollution Control and Salvage Administration (MPCSA) was established in 1991, under the Ministry of Merchant Marine Fleet. The MIPCSA has the Central Administration in Moscow, and Basin Authorities named “Regional Salvage Departments”. Murmansk and Far East Basin Authorities have special strike teams to work in the Arctic region. Sea port authorities bear responsibility for COS in the adjacent water areas. Then the Ministry for Civil Defense and Emergencies (EMERCOM) was established. The corresponding changes were made in the emergency managing systems. EMERCOM is in charge of coordination for all national rescue services, including the MPCSA. The MPCSA’s task is to combat any oil spill at sea. The responsibility for cleaning-up of the shore/coast belts rests with the Emergency Commissions of the regional authorities and on the MPCSA regional bodies. When an accident occurs, the MPCSA and its regional strike forces (from Murmansk and the Far East RSD in the Arctic seas) undertake direct supervision for COS operation at sea, while EMERCOM, as a coordinator, ensures coordination with other actors. This system is designed for COS operations for ships that are engaged in oil transportation into the Arctic region; i.e. the design was based on then existing routes and volumes.