Northern Sea Route (NSR)

Northern Sea Route (NSR)

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “Northern Sea Route”. The topic “Northern Sea Route” has relevance in the “Geography” section of the UPSC CSE exam.

For Prelims:

What is the Northern Sea Route?
Where is Murmansk located? 

For Mains:

GS1:  World Geography 

Why in the news?

Murmansk, an Arctic hub and Northern Sea Route origin, sees rising Indian involvement in cargo. India handled 35% of 8 million tonnes of cargo handled by the Murmansk port, about 2,000 km northwest of Moscow. 

About Murmansk

  • Murmansk Port, a significant seaport in northwestern Russia, was established in 1916 to provide supplies to the Russian military during World War I. 
  • Situated in the largest city above the Arctic Circle in Russia, Murmansk, it rests on the shores of the Barents Sea on the Kola Peninsula. 
  • This port holds a pivotal role as an entry point to the Arctic region and stands as a crucial node along the Northern Sea Route—an Arctic Ocean shipping route connecting Europe and Asia. 
  • Its ice-free waters permit year-round maritime operations, solidifying its status as a vital hub for Arctic shipping and trade.


Northern Sea Route (NSR)

  • The Northern Sea Route (NSR) is the most direct shipping pathway for transporting goods between Europe and the Asia-Pacific nations, spanning across four Arctic Ocean seas. 
  • Extending for 5,600 km, the route commences at the border between the Barents and Kara seas, known as the Kara Strait, and concludes at the Bering Strait in Provideniya Bay.
  • A September 2011 publication on the Arctic Institute’s website highlights that the NSR offers potential distance savings of up to 50% in comparison to the currently utilized shipping routes through the Suez or Panama canals. 


Making NSR Navigabele- Russian Icebreaker

  • Facilitating navigation along the NSR in the face of Arctic Ocean’s year-round ice coverage necessitates the organization of icebreaking support. 
  • Russia stands as the only nation worldwide equipped with a fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers, as stated by Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, the overseeing body of NSR infrastructure. 
  • A groundbreaking milestone occurred in December 1959 with the launch of the world’s inaugural nuclear icebreaker, “Lenin,” marking a pivotal juncture in NSR’s evolution. Its active service spanned three decades before decommissioning.
  • Presently, FSUE Atomflot, a Rosatom subsidiary, takes charge of operating the fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers, which consists of seven vessels, in addition to a nuclear-powered container ship. The fleet is slated to welcome three new additions into commission between 2024 and 2027.

What motivates India to engage in NSR development?

Cargo Traffic Growth and Energy Supplies:

  • One significant driving factor behind India’s involvement in the development of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) is the remarkable growth in cargo volume, which reached a substantial 34.117 million tonnes in the previous year. 
  • India’s mounting import requirements for crucial resources like crude oil and coal from Russia play a pivotal role in this scenario.


Strategic Geographical Position and Maritime Trade:

  • India’s unique geographical location amplifies the importance of the NSR as a vital transit route. 
  • Situated with a strategic advantage, the nation’s heavy reliance on sea transportation for trade adds to the significance of leveraging the NSR’s potential benefits.


Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor (CVMC) Project:

  • Born from a memorandum of intent signed in September 2019 between India and Russia, the CVMC project is being explored as a means to link with the NSR for facilitating international container transit. 
  • The corridor’s extensive span of 10,500 km, traversing through the Sea of Japan, South China Sea, and Malacca Strait, holds the promise of significantly reducing transport time. 
  • This time-saving potential becomes evident when compared to the existing St. Petersburg-Mumbai route that spans 16,000 km. 


Geostrategic Considerations:

  • Beyond these economic and logistical factors, discussions among experts revolve around the possibility of collaborative influence from China and Russia over the NSR. 
  • This geopolitical dimension adds an additional layer of consideration for India’s engagement in NSR development.


Arctic Region’s Significance to India

Abundant Resource Potential: 

  • This largely unexplored area is speculated to contain a significant portion of the Earth’s remaining hydrocarbon resources. 
  • Shyam Saran, a former Foreign Secretary, highlighted in an article that the Arctic might harbour over 40% of the global reserves of oil and gas, in addition to possible deposits of coal, zinc, and silver. 
  • It’s important to note that India’s approach to the region’s economic development aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, as outlined in its 2022 Arctic Policy.


Historical Engagement: 

  • India’s connection with the Arctic dates back to the signing of the Svalbard Treaty in February 1920 in Paris. 
  • This treaty marked an early point of engagement. Over time, India has expanded its involvement through extensive scientific studies and research endeavors in the Arctic. 
  • These efforts encompass a wide spectrum of fields, including atmospheric, biological, marine, hydrological, and glaciological studies.


Scientific Endeavours and Facilities: 

  • India’s commitment to Arctic research is evident through its establishment of significant scientific infrastructure. In 2008, India set up the Himadri research station at Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard. 
  • Subsequently, the country launched a multi-sensor moored observatory in 2014 and a northernmost atmospheric laboratory in 2016. 
  • A total of thirteen successful Arctic expeditions were carried out until the previous year, underscoring India’s active scientific engagement.


Arctic Council Participation:

  • India’s growing involvement with the Arctic was further solidified in May 2013 when it became an observer-state of the Arctic Council, a prominent international forum focused on Arctic affairs. 
  • This status, shared with five others, including China, reflects India’s recognition as a stakeholder in the region’s developments.

In a rapidly changing world, where the Arctic is undergoing transformative environmental shifts, geopolitical dynamics, and economic opportunities, India’s proactive involvement underscores its commitment to responsible global citizenship. As India continues to balance economic interests with environmental consciousness, its active engagement in the Arctic region sets a positive precedent for international collaboration, scientific exploration, and sustainable development.


Explained | India and the Northern Sea Route  – The Hindu 


Q1. The Northern Sea Route (NSR) was recently in the news, which of the following straits are connected by this route?  

  1. Kerch Strait 
  2. Kara Strait 
  3. Bering Strait 
  4. Strait of Gibraltar

Select the correct code from the code given below: 

(a) 1 and 2 

(b) 2 and 3 

(c) 3 and 4 

(d) 1 and 4 

Answer: (b) 


Q2. Consider the following:

Port Sea/ Ocean

  1. Murmansk Bering Sea 
  2. Odessa Pacific Ocean
  3. Sabang Indian Ocean
  4. Vladivostok Mediterranean Sea 

How many of the abovementioned pairs are correctly matched ?

(a) Only one 

(b) Only two 

(c) Only three 

(d) All Four 

Answer: (b)

Q3. Discuss the significance of India’s engagement with the Arctic region. How does India’s approach align with global sustainable development goals?

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