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More details announced for the Arctic Northern Sea Route expansion

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16 December 2014


Three weeks off normal sailing times from Asia to trading partners in Europe. Picture: Slava Titov

The new gateway to the Northern Sea Route across the Arctic will be ready for operation by 2016 with a customs post opened next year, it has been announced.

Five members of customs staff will take up their posts at Sabetta, in the Yamal Peninsula, in 2015 as the region gears up for an increase in trade across the roof of the world. Tests have already been carried out on the feasibility of using the frozen waters, traditionally open for just four months in the summer, all-year-round.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has been tasked with drafting and approving a finalised plan for the route by June 1, 2015. It would slash three weeks off normal sailing times from Asia to trading partners in Europe through the East Siberian Sea.

Now details of the infrastructure required to deliver the 75 billion rouble (£73million) project are beginning to be outlined. It is thought that more than three million tonnes of import cargo will pass through Sabetta next year alone, but the site will eventually be able to handle 30 million tonnes.

The new port will also be a key component in the development of the resource-rich Yamal Peninsula with the building of a large-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant.

Permanent customs task force unveiled as Sabetta gears up to take Russian goods and gas over the top of the world 
Gateway to the Northern Sea route. Picture: Slava Titov

Colonel Sergey Kravchuk, head of the Yamal-Nenets Customs, said a new dedicated customs taskforce at Sabetta is vital. He said: 'This year we were faced with the fact that to the port came not only various goods for the Yamal LNG project but also other products. Twenty-seven vessels arrived and 28 departed. In 2015, we plan to open a customs department in Sabetta of five members, who will constantly work here'.

With only one berth for foreign vessels to pass border and customs controls, officials have also decided to open additional berths to speed up the entry process. The new port on the Yamal Peninsula, which will be fully operational by 2016, will provide year-round navigation for vessels carrying goods and gas through the Northern Sea Route.

Details of a number of other projects connected with Sabetta are slowly being made public. Last week the Governor of Yamal, Dmitry Kobylkin, said that Swedish company Rice Capital had invested 600 million roubles (£5.85million) in the design of a new railway line. Running for 180km between Bovanenkovo and Sabetta, the route will take it across a new large bridge over the Ob River. It will not only aid the Yamal LNG plant but will carry cargo to the seaport as demand increases.

Kobylkin said the expertise from Sweden would be important because the European country are among the world leaders at developing rail networks.

He added: 'Sweden is a small country but I am amazed by the number of investments in rail infrastructure. Almost all the country is connected via railways. They see that the future of the Russian North belongs to the railways and they are willing to invest. And they are right to do so.

'Looking at the entire Arctic region, we have already explored the deposits in the Sakha-Yakutia area.

'Diamonds from Yakutia go to the Arctic, while another field in the Arctic area contains rare earth metal, equal to nickel'.

Permanent customs task force unveiled as Sabetta gears up to take Russian goods and gas over the top of the world 
Road to Bovanenkovo oil field, Yama. Picture: The Siberian Times 

Plans for the opening of the customs gateway come weeks after a major Siberian city was chosen as Russia’s first ‘free port’ in a move to boost trade and bolster the economy in the far east of the country. In an address to the Federal Assembly, Vladimir Putin said that Vladivostok would see less strict customs regulations, the introduction of tax incentives for port operators, and a lower cost for ships coming into the port.

It will make the city an attractive option for overseas trade and help stimulate the economy, which has suffered as a result of Western sanctions following the Ukraine crisis. The region is also strategically placed to aid the President’s pursuit of new stronger ties with Asian nations, particularly China.

New figures released by the Russian Association of Commercial Seaports show that, for the first 10 months of 2014, Far Eastern ports handled 135.5 million tonnes of cargo - about a quarter of the total turnover of Russian ports.

Most productive was Vostochny, which handled 48.5 million tonnes of cargo compared to Vladivostok, which was in fifth place with 12.9 million tonnes.

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