wrh_left_button menu_ealat birgen
Russia consolidates positions in the Arctic
Written by BarentsObserver   
Tuesday, 04 May 2010 20:57
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Arctic investments
During this year the Russian Ministry of natural resources and the Ministry of economic development should announce the dates and terms of working out of the large scale federal program of development of the Russian continental shelf. Its cost is estimated in 9,3 trillion rubles (310 billion USD), but in the longer perspective the total volume of investments in the development of the continental shelf of Russia is going to be much higher.

The President of “Rosneft” company Sergei Bogdanchikov estimated volume of investments in the development of continental shelf till 2050 as 61,6 trillion rubles (2,63 trillion USD). From this amount 16 trillion rubles is to be used for geological studies. This estimation is also supported by the President of the Russian Union of Oil and Gas Producers Gennady Shmal as reported by World Energy.

Obviously this level of investments is hardly to be totally undertaken by the state, while only a few years ago it seemed the federal authorities considered that Arctic offshore activity should be an exclusive state monopoly. Today the Minister of natural resources Yuri Trutnev says about the necessity of liberalization of access for foreign companies to the Arctic offshore oil fields, noting that not all federal departments share this position, reports Oilru.

Another Russian official, the Minister of Energy Sergei Shmatko said recently that the Government is ready to study a possibility of giving an access to the Arctic offshore oil fields for the private Russian companies. Before this privilege was given only to the state-owned majors Gazprom and Rosneft, writes Oilru.

More activity - more actors
In 2010 all money from the federal budget allocated for geological study of the shelf will be used in the Arctic, said the Vice-Premier of the Federal Government Sergey Ivanov. But this is far from enough. In 2009 the state spent less than 1 billion rubles for geological studies on the shelf, according to Arnews.

Gazprom and Rosneft spent many times more money for these purposes (56,4 billion rubles in 2008), but due to the crisis their investments in geological studies on the shelf have sufficiently dropped  - by 20-30 percent according to Arnews.

This situation made the federal authorities to announce future facilitation of access of private Russian and foreign companies to pre-discovery explorations on the Arctic shelf. The Government is going to change the legislation in order to allow the private Russian and foreign companies to get special licenses on pre-discovery explorations on the shelf.

During the next three years Russia is planning several Arctic expeditions for exploration of oceanic bottom. It is expected that the first one will start in summer this year and include the nuclear-powered ice-breaker and one of the research vessels of “Atomflot”.

Development of infrastructure
The Arctic enthusiasm has touched even Russian military authorities. Admiral Vladimir Vysotzkiy, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, announced that the navy is ready to declassify most of the secret maps of the Arctic basin in order to fasten the works for substantiation of the borders of the Russian continental shelf.

Also, the Russian Border Guard Service has started realization of a large-scale program of establishing the zone of all-round monitoring along the Arctic borderline and the Northern Sea Route. First deputy leader of the Border Guard Service, Colonel-General Vyacheslav Doroshin reported that before the end of this year Russia will complete a deployment of automatized system of control over the Arctic seas, reports Nezavisimoye Voyenoye.

It is planned to deploy the modern frontier complexes along the Northern Sea Route similar to the frontier post Nagurskaya, recently built on the Franz-Jozef Land archipelago. Russia is also going to launch a new space system of hydro-meteorological monitoring in the Arctic. The proposals for establishing of this system should be prepared by the Government before the 1st of June.

The space system “Arktika” will also be oriented to support the geological explorations in the Polar regions. The new system will include five high-elliptical satellites including “Arktika-M” which will secure safety of air-traffic, “Arktika-R” which will help to navigation along the Northern Sea Route and exploration of natural resources and “Arktika-MS” for communication purposes, according to Military-Industrial Courier.

The deployment of this system presupposes increasing cooperation between “Roskosmos” and the space center Plezetsk in Arkhangelsk oblast. Another important step in development of Russian infrastructure in the Arctic is ongoing modernization of nine northern airports; Murmansk, Anadyr, Pevek, Salekhard, Narjan-Mar, Khatanga, Tiksi, Vorkuta and Norilsk.

Establishing in Arkhangelsk of the Federal Northern (Arctic) University in April 2010 means that the Federal authorities is trying to give a strong impulse for the research and innovative activity oriented to the Arctic issues but also to secure local training of skilled specialists for development of this area. Keeping in mind that the Northern Department of the Federal Service for Hydro meteorology and environmental monitoring is also situated in Arkhangelsk one could predict that this city could become a main center for research activity in the Arctic and has a good chance to locate the headquarter of the Northern Sea Route in the future.

Arctic boost for the shipyards
The Arctic strategy of Russia gives a broad perspective for the shipbuilding industry of the country. Even today the shipyards of Russia keep a stock of orders for building of 2 thousand civilian vessels before 2020 for a total sum of 1,5 trillion rubles, according to Morskaya Kollegiya with referance to BarentsObserver.

The official “Strategy of development of shipbuilding industry till 2020 and a further perspective” says that Arctic offshore activity for the period before 2030 demands 90 specialized transport ships with total dead weight of 4 million tons and around 140 supply vessels. It will be necessary to build 10-12 new ice-breakers, according to estimates from the Ministry of Russian Ministry Industry and Trade.

In addition, before 2020 Russia plans to build three universal nuclear-powered ice-breakers of 60 MWt capacity and one ice-breaker-leader with capacity of 110 MWt. In March 2007 the world biggest ice-breaker “50 Let Pobedy” was taken into service and operates out of Murmansk together with Russia’s other nuclear powered icebreakers.

Balanced and stable Arctic policy
For the last 2-3 years Russia was able not only to sufficiently regain the lost positions in the Arctic area, but also to create a solid foundation for the fast expansion in the High North in the future. In the foreseeable future the Federal Duma will adopt two important acts which could finally complete the contours of the Russian Arctic policy. These are: the Law on the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation and the Law on the Northern Sea Route.

It is also important that Russian political establishment could clearly demonstrate its orientation to non-conflict solutions of the problems and challenges appearing in relations with neighboring countries in the Arctic.

Russia obviously feels comfortable and confident in the format of “Arctic Five” countries, and is not going to make actions which contradict the international rule-of-law. Russian interrelations with the five Arctic countries clearly show that it does not look for any rivalry in the region, but emphatically waits for partnership and cooperation.

The coming visit of President Medvedev to Norway next week brings a new intrigue in the development of the Russian Arctic story.

This article is written for BarentsObserver
by Andrey Shalyov, head of the 
Arkhangelsk office of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat.

Read Original Article
Arctic Policy, Russia
arctic universi ipy_logo_index norden research_council eni