The deliveries could boost freight volume along the NSR and help meet the annual target, which stands at 36 million tonnes for this year. In 2022, 34 million tons were transported on the route. According to Russian officials, the use of inland river routes is considered one of the keys to expanding the NSR to its full potential.
Use rivers to get to the ocean
During a meeting of the State Commission for Arctic Development, Ministry officials discussed the readiness of inland waterway transport infrastructure to ensure export transportation of coal, timber and grain products along the Ob-Irtysh and Yenisei transport corridors and further through the water area of the Northern Sea Route to countries in Southeast Asia .
“According to preliminary calculations, the cost of transporting coal along the Yenisei River through the North Sea Route corresponds to the logistical requirements of the coal company,” said Presidential Envoy to the Far East Federal District Yuri Trutnev.
The logistics plan is to use the river ports of Krasnoyarsk and Lesosibirsk along the Yenisei River to send coal shipments north to the Arctic seaport of Dudinka. The coal would be transhipped onto ocean-going cargo ships before heading east on the North Sea Route to Asia.
The port of Dudinka is around 375 km from the Yenisei estuary and accepts seagoing vessels up to 260 m in length and 11.8 m draft
The issue of using the NSR for economic development is a top national priority. Addressing the Federal Assembly last week, Russian President Putin said that expanding the capabilities of the Northern Sea Route to solve national problems is essential for the development of Siberia, the Arctic and the Far East.
Rising demand for coal in Asia
Faced with growing demand and competition for liquefied natural gas (LNG), some countries, including Pakistan, are reversing their policies on larger LNG imports and switching back to coal-based power generation.
Pakistan is aiming to quadruple its coal-fired electricity generation and has halted construction of new gas-fired power plants as gas has become “unaffordable” for the country with the recent boom in LNG in Europe and elsewhere. Russian officials therefore see continued strong demand for coal in Asia.
The NSR was previously used to transport coal to North America and Asia. In 2013, around 75,000 tons of coal went on board the bulk carrier from the Finnish Baltic Sea port of Pori to Vancouver in Canada Nordic Odyssey.
And in 2021 the bulker Roland Altendorf traveled from the Russian Baltic Sea port of Ust-Luga to South Korea with 100,000 tons of coal from the Sibanthracite Group, one of the world’s largest coal producers.
Another Arctic project by the Severnaya Zvezda company, which plans to ship millions of tons of coal from the Taimyr Peninsula to Asian markets like China and India, was hit by western sanctions in 2022. However, for 2023, the company intends to start shipping high-quality anthracite coal, used in steelmaking, to China.
Russian officials, including President Putin, had previously discussed plans with colleagues in Kazakhstan to use the Ob’-Irtysh river system via the Arctic port of Sabetta. The project, which would bring the Central Asian landlocked country access to the world’s oceans, was first developed in 2019, but no deliveries have yet been made.
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