Northern Sea Route environmental monitoring project proceeds to its third stage

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The international experts’ group on environmental monitoring of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) has proceeded to the third stage of the project, according to the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom.  

A Rosatom statement said that another regular meeting last month on the development of the NSR environmental monitoring project brought together experts from around the world.  

The NSR, via the Arctic Ocean and running along Russia’s northern coastline, is the shortest sea route between the Asia-Pacific region and northern Europe, while cutting the distance and travel time will reduce fuel consumption and the carbon footprint of maritime transport. 

Rosatom operates nuclear powered icebreakers that help keep the NSR open for navigation. The company is constructing icebreakers which will help keep the Northern Sea Route open for year-round shipping. In addition, Rosatom is equipping the NSR facilities, building port infrastructure, and developing transit.       

“The integrated development of the Arctic and the NSR as a year-round transport and logistics route requires safe and sustainable Arctic shipping, while the development of a modern and efficient port infrastructure requires constant monitoring of the NSR-contiguous water and terrestrial Arctic ecosystems,” a Rosatom statement said.  

As part of a Rosatom initiative to ensure sustainable and environmentally responsible shipping along the NSR, the Marine Research Center of Lomonosov Moscow State University has been implementing a program of environmental monitoring of the NSR from 2021, taking into account best Russian and international practices and with an international group of experts (IGE) on marine ecology and biological diversity conservation involved in the activities, it said.  

“On December 21, 2023, experts from India, Turkey, Egypt, Russia and other countries took part in a meeting about the third stage of the project,” the statement added. 

In his expert presentation, Rudra Prasad Pradhan, Professor at India’s Birla Institute of Technology and Science, presented the Indian vision of the potential development of an integrated transport system based on the green shipping principles.  

According to Pradhan, such a transport system will connect the Northern Sea Route, the Indian Ocean and the North-South international transport corridor. 

“The operation of such a system will be beneficial for all parties involved, and, in particular, for the countries of Central Asia, Russia and India,” he said. 

India has committed to help Russia develop the NSR as an international trade artery. 

“Expert interaction within the IGE is becoming more active due to the mutual striving of colleagues for sharing their scientific insights that they have in the area of the group’s work,” said Alexander Shestakov, an expert from the Department of Scientific Research and Development at the Marine Research Center of Lomonosov Moscow State University.  

The IGE, which plans to monitor the state of the environment and biodiversity in the waters of the Northern Sea Route, has been an important platform for sharing experiences and future coordination of the monitoring program with existing environmental data collection platforms in the Arctic.  

The group consists of leading experts from international environmental research institutes and non-governmental organizations, specializing in birds, zoo- and phytoplankton, benthos, marine mammals, fish, and abiotic components. 

More than 20 representatives of Russian and foreign research centers, including those from Malaysia, India, and Turkey, have earlier discussed the results of comprehensive studies in the waters of the NSR conducted from September 2022 to June 2023, and the final report – Integrated Environmental Monitoring Programme for the Northern Sea Route. 

A study undertaken earlier by the Marine Research Center of Lomonosov Moscow State University in collaboration with international experts found that commercial shipping has no significant impact on marine ecosystems in the Arctic. The comprehensive study was based on data from 50 monitoring stations in the waters of the Northern Sea Route.