The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries is analyzing Russia’s North Pole Route development plan approved in August last year. The Russian government is planning to invest 1.8 trillion rubles (US$24 billion) for 12 years to come so that Europe and Asia can become more closely connected via the route.
The route on the northern coast of Russia is the shortest sea route between the two continents. At present, navigation in the area is impossible for three to four months a year, but climate change and the resultant thawing of glaciers is reducing that period, increasing its economic value. According to the Russian government, the period is likely to disappear entirely next year.
The volume of cargo transport there is already increasing. Specifically, the annual volume increased from 20.2 million tons to 34.87 million tons from 2018 to 2021. It is estimated to reach 50 million tons next year.
In addition, the North Pole Route is meaningful as an alternative route between Asia and Europe, where the Southern Sea Route is de facto the only sea route. In 2021, the Ever Given, a very large container carrier and one of the largest ships in the world, ran aground in the Suez Canal, paralyzing the route for about a week. Such risks can be avoided with another option to choose from.
There are some variables of course, including the war in Ukraine. The Russian government was planning to bring 783 billion rubles (US$10.3 billion) out of the total development budget from the outside, but the international sanctions after the outbreak of the war are making that impossible. South Korea is participating in the sanctions, Russia is currently hostile to South Korea, and its participation in the North Pole Route development project is unlikely unless the hostility disappears.