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Russia rescues ships in Arctic as it mulls Northern Sea Route ban for foreign vessels

Highlights

Ban for foreign transportation of Russian energy considered

Rising temperatures could make route global transport corridor

Russia's nuclear-powered icebreakers have successfully escorted over a dozen ships stuck on the Northern Sea Route, state operating company Atomflot said Dec. 7, with the country considering restricting activities of foreign vessels along the route.

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Since mid-November, Russian icebreakers Vaygach and Taymyr have been involved in rescue operations to escort vessels stuck in Arctic waters, including Finland's Kumpula, to the Kara Sea, due to ice forming two weeks earlier than seen in the previous seven years.

"Favorable ice conditions of past years distorted the impression of some shipowners how to work in the waters of the Northern Sea Route," General Director Mustafa Kashka said.

His comments come as Russia continues to work on legislation to prohibit foreign vessels from shipping Russian oil, gas, condensate and coal via the route, as well as carrying out icebreaking and coastal navigation in the region.

The draft document was presented in May and may enter into force as early as March 2022, if adopted by the Russian government, the Kommersant newspaper reported.

"To effectively use the water area of the Northern Sea Route, we need to pay more attention to the choice of vessels operating in the last months of summer-autumn navigation," Atomflot deputy Leonid Irlitsa said.

Russia considers the Northern Sea Route of strategic importance and plans to increase shipments via the route as temperatures rise over the coming years, making it a more significant global transport corridor.

Shipments via the route, which runs through Arctic waters, are expected to increase from 35 million mt in 2021, to 80 million mt in 2024 and 150 million mt in 2030, according to the Russian strategy.

The headline has been amended to clarify that the rescue mission is not linked to the potential ban.