Northern Sea Routes: multiplicity of Arctic maritime infrastructures

Theme 2. Connectivity
Session Name 2.7 Connect or separate? Social studies of the Northern Sea Route
Datetime Sep 07, 2018 02:15 PM - 02:35 PM (UTC +3)
Presentation Type Oral
Author(s) Valeria Vasilyeva (Tyumen State University, junior research fellow; European University at St Petersburg, junior research fellow, Russian Federation)
Abstract text

The Northern Sea (NSR) route is often considered as integrated infrastructure similar to Panama or Suez canals. But in reality it is a network of corridors, within which the ship is choosing its way depending not only on weather and ice conditions or depths, but also on legal regulations. When moving through the ice, the vessel must blaze its own non-linear route, so its trajectory is hardly predictable. Consequently, two ships can simultaneously pass the same section of the NSR without even noticing each other.


The ship traffic is also far from homogeneous. Functionally it falls into at least five categories: 1) international transit; 2) international traffic to or from NSR-zone; 3) traffic from a Russian port connected to a road or railway to NSR-zone; 4) Arctic tourist cruises; 5) intra-NSR traffic. They not only differ by their function but also include different actors onshore. It causes the effect of patchwork: different NSR users see its infrastructure differently. Sometimes they cooperate, but sometimes – paradoxically – they do not even ‘notice’ each other.


The presentation is based on field data collected in 2017-2018 at the port towns and villages located on the Western part of the NSR. The presentation will discuss different perspectives and uses of the NSR depending on the actor, with special attention to mutual ‘invisibility’ of different users of the NSR infrastructure.

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