Anna K. Voronenko

Admiral Nevelskoy Maritime State University, Vladivostok

Abstract: The article examines the main environmental risks associated with the growth of vessel traffic via NSR, prospects for changes and measures for reducing the negative effects of intensified shipping. The continuing process of ice melting in the Arctic paves the way to its fast economic exploration, which in turn leads to intensified vessel traffic. Risk of ships collision, oil spills, technogenic noise impact on Arctic fragile environment are assessed, as well as measures to counter these threats and / or mitigate their consequences. The author describes legislative efforts to protect the Arctic from environmental challenges, both domestic and international, recent changes in the system of NSR management and research activities of Russian universities supported by industry leaders

Keywords: shipping; NSR; environmental protection; Arctic region; seaports; emergency situation in transport; negative effects of shipping

The volume of traffic in the Russian sector of the Arctic in 2021 exceeded 33.5 million tons, which is higher not only than in 2020, when 32.97 million tons of cargo was transported, but also the level indicated in the passport of the Federal project “Development of the Northern Sea Route”. [1] The results of the transport sector in recent years in the Arctic show that the intended coordinated development of this region and government policies stimulate the growth of shipping and the volume of goods transported. The goals and objectives of the state policy in the Arctic are determined by strategic documents at the federal and regional levels [2, 3, 4, 5], etc. All documents assume an increase in the cargo base, and, accordingly, an increase in traffic and the p of shipping in the Northern Sea Route (NSR) region. Climate change also contributes to this: the ice is rapidly melting even in regions that were previously considered resistant to warming, [6, 7] fig. 1.

According to CHNL, the NSR traffic over the past 4 years was as follows: in 2020 – 2905 vessel passages, in 2019 – 2694, in 2018 – 2022, in 2017 – 1908 and in 2016 – 1705. The main volume of cargo transportation accounts for iron ore, oil, liquefied natural gas and other fuels. [9, 10] The “Plan for the development of the infrastructure of the Northern Sea Route until 2035”, approved by the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of December 21, 2019 No. 3120-r, was formed based on the forecast of all existing and prospective groups of cargo flows, including:

– cargoes of raw materials projects implemented by “Novatek” PJSC, “GazpromNeft” PJSC, “MMC Norilsk Nickel” PJSC;

– cargoes of the projects planned for implementation by “VostokUgol” LLC, “Independent Oil Company” JSC, “GDK Baimskaya” LLC, “KAZ Minerals” PLC, “Vostok Engineering” LLC, “Severnaya Zvezda” LLC;

– cargoes transported along the NSR for internal needs of these raw materials projects;

– life support cargoes of the Arctic territories of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug and the Krasnoyarsk Territory using sections of the NSR for transportation;

– export-import and transit cargo flows passing through the seaports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk in the direction of the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, including those redirected from the southern routes (including the Suez Canal) to the NSR;

– cargo additionally sent to the NSR after the expansion of the railway network in the area of ​​gravity to the Arctic zone due to the optimization of the logistics of the unified transport system of Russia.It is assumed that all these segments together can provide up to 110 million tons of cargo in 2030 [11]. With an increase in the intensity of navigation, the problem of increasing environmental risks in the waters of the NSR arises, accordingly, the possibilities of reducing the negative impact on the environment along the NSR routes should be analyzed. In 2015, WWF together with “FEMRI” JSC carried out research project on the topic: “Problems of Ensuring Environmental Safety in the Development of Shipping in the Bering Strait” [12], where the main environmental risks caused by the growth of shipping and possible countermeasures were identified , the implementation of which will reduce the risks of environmental pollution in the Arctic (including the Bering Strait). In this article, we will try to analyze how the situation has changed and what measures are taken to protect the environment of the Arctic from the negative impact of shipping.

Table 1. Environmental risks arising from the growth of shipping in the Arctic and measures to reduce them

Risk descriptionPossible countermeasures (what needs to be done)Implementation of countermeasures (what is being done)
1. Risks of ship collisions, as well as ice damage, both when escorting in a caravan and when sailing alone– improvement of the Rules for navigation of ships in the Arctic;
– organization of recommended routes of movement, allocation of areas closed for navigation; – development of coastal port infrastructure in Chukotka to ensure the safety of navigation;
– improvement of international and domestic legislation;
– increasing the level of interaction with interested countries in this area; – new navigation rules were approved, hydrographic surveys of the NSR are being carried out; – advanced training of specialists working in the field of Arctic shipping;
– introduction of the use of unmanned vessels as a measure to reduce the impact of human factor.
2. Risks of spilling oil and oil products increase both in emergency situations during the passage of transport vessels, and during geological exploration, construction and other related activities.Measures specified in – Para 1, and:
– formation of a national legislative framework – that prevents – environmental pollution in the Arctic as a whole and in the Bering Strait in particular; – – development of port infrastructure to utilize all- types of ship waste, as well as waste from the elimination of possible – accidental spills. f
creation and implementation f new technologies for ollecting oil in ice conditions; simulation of emergencies; search for new effective ethods for spraying and ollecting adsorbents in case of il spills; creation of new emergency nd oil spill response bases; improvement of methods for etecting oil pollution on the ea surface; creation of simulation models or calculating the volumes and reas of oil pollution of water reas.
3. Increase in the need to dispose of more waste, more frequent discharge of ballast water, etc.– formation of a national legislative framework that prevents environmental pollution in the Arctic as a whole and in the Bering Strait; – a ban on the discharge of ballast water, all types of garbage, non-crushed and non-disinfected sewage in especially important areas of the Arctic (including the Bering Strait).– approval and control over compliance with the measures of the Polar Code.
4. Growth in emissions of sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxides.– creation of “green” ships for navigation in the Arctic, providing minimal emissions; – allocation of zones for special control of the level of emissions of sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxides in accordance with the requirements of the MARPOL 73/78 Convention.– construction of new LNG and nuclear-powered ships,
– development and implementation of technologies for the conversion of ships to use LNG or diesel fuel with a lower content of harmful substances.
5. As a result of growing number of new objects in the Arctic (ships, coastal and offshore facilities), there is an increase in noise pollution.– noise pollution monitoring, organization of recommended traffic routes, allocation of areas closed for navigation;
– development and introduction of vessel systems and components with reduced noise level.
– a research facility for hydroacoustic measurements was launched;
– preparation for organization of noise pollution monitoring.
6. When unloading onto an unequipped shore, without which it is practically impossible to build on wild areas of the Arctic coast, there is a risk of emergency situations.– development of port infrastructure;
– development of plans for offshore operations.
– reconstruction of Arctic ports and construction of new port facilities during the development of oil and gas fields, – creation of new technologies for the construction of temporary berthing facilities in Arctic conditions.

Among other measures taken to reduce the risk of ship collisions, the following has been done in the field of improving the quality of management and reducing the human factor influencing the accident rate: in recent years, a big step has been taken in improving the quality of training for specialists working in the Arctic. In April 2017 the Admiral Nevelskoy Maritime State University (MSUN) in partnership with “Sovcomflot” PJSC (SCF), initiated the Floating Laboratory research and educational project based on the SCF icebreaking supply vessel ‘Gennady Nevelskoy’. In extreme conditions of ice navigation, MSUN cadets undergo practical training; research and educational programs for graduate students, young scientists and internships for scientific and teaching staff of the University, including on the specifics of the work of ship equipment in the Arctic, are being implemented.

In October 2020, an experiment was launched to operate unmanned ships (IMO term – autonomous ships) under the Russian flag. Up to this point, work has been carried out within the framework of the work of NTI and Marinet programs on the creation of support systems, development of communication algorithms coordination of systems operation, etc. Vessels of the following enterprises participate in the experiment: FSUE “Rosmorpor”, SCF, as well as the ‘Pola Rize’ group of companies. [13] The leaders in this field are the shipping companies of Japan, where an experiment using unmanned vessels was conducted back in 2019. However, for the first time we are dealing with vessel operation in the Arctic. It is assumed that the activities will take place until December 31, 2025 in several Russian regions, including the Murmansk region. The tanker ‘Mikhail Ulyanov’ (SCF) which makes regular voyages between Murmansk and the Prirazlomnaya oil rig, will take part in the experiment. [14]

In March 2021, FSUE “Rosmorport” demonstrated to the IMO representatives a unique experiment: the remote control equipment was installed not on the shore in the office of a shipping company, but on board another vessel. Such a configuration can be useful in certain conditions, including in the Arctic, when the remote control station is located on board an icebreaker leading a convoy of fully unmanned vessels following the icebreaker. [15] The “Hydrographic Enterprise” plans to use surface autonomous unmanned vehicles with an echo sounder in test mode to study the waters of the NSR in 2022. [16]

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