Arctic transport: what needs to be changed

Russia’s Arctic regions expect subsidies for reconstruction and renovation of runways at small regional airfields, and they need assistance in putting together a concept for development of the Arctic’s transport system. The Arctic region’s representatives participated in discussions at the III international conference Arctic: Shelf Projects and Sustainable Regional Development, hosted by the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Regional aviation

Regional aviation is practically the only transport, which may serve year-round, the Arkhangelsk Region’s Deputy Governor Elena Kutukova said.

“Our existing transportation system, using air fields and small runways, mostly located in settlement, and this regional aviation is practically the only kind of transport, which is available year-round,” she said. “The Arkhangelsk Region has three aerodromes, 20 runways, seven of which are artificial, and the rest are gravel airstrips.” In autumn and spring, the gravel airstrips are ruined in rains and melting snow, she added.

The main and biggest aviation hub, she said, is the airport in Arkhangelsk, where 877,000 passengers were served in 2017. “As of now, eight companies serve local flights, though regular flights are in four directions only – to St. Petersburg, Moscow, Syktyvkar and Naryan-Mar, and other directions are served by chartered flights only,” she said.

Improvement of the transport situation in the Arkhangelsk Region, like in other Arctic areas, requires two decisions, she continued. “We need a plane, similar to Antonov An-2, which may serve the routes <…> and which may land on gravel airstrips, as the regional budgets do not have money to modernize the runways. <…> And, secondly, – modernization and reconstruction of the aerodromes, which is too expensive for regional budgets, and here only subsidies may help the regions,” she said.

Infrastructures for Far Eastern ports

Head of the Far East’s Agency for Investments and Export Vasily Grudev said the Far East’s nine regions have 18 advance-development territories, and the Free Port Vladivostok regime is effective in 21 municipal regions. “Those instruments have projects on development of the port infrastructures, as they are related to the Northern Sea Route,” he said. “Take for example, the construction of the refrigerator terminal and the dry-cargo terminal in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the construction in Kamchatka of a complex to store oil products, and the technical modernization of the Beringovsky sea port.”

The regional shipping companies “say they are interested in organization of additional search and rescue stations, as now they are located at three ports,” and in organization of ship servicing plants along the routes, in the systems of marine forecasts.

The businesses also say it is necessary to have an international standard for navigation in the Polar seas and special training programs for foreign crews to teach them specifics of the navigation along the Northern Sea Route. At the same time, all foreign companies are willing and ready to invest in development of the Far East’s port infrastructures, he stressed.

Complex solution

Both the regions, development institutes and federal authorities are working on a complex solution of the transport problems in the Arctic regions.

“We are working on a draft concept for the complex development of the transport system in the Arctic, which includes all kinds of transport,” Head of the State Policy in Sea and River Transport at the Russian Ministry of Transport Vitaly Kluev said. “We have been making changes to this not simple document, we have to consider many aspects, to avoid big financial burdens, though still coordinate all kinds of transport, offer the conditions to make sure they develop in good balance.”

Work on the document also requires from experts attention to observing and keeping the ecology balance in the Arctic regions, and requires adjusting to conditions of low temperatures and to international reactions on any actions in the Arctic, he added.