A panel discussion ‘Supply chain sustainability: economic corridor through the NSR as a new opportunity for global trade’ was held as part of Rosatom’s week of events at EXPO 2020.

The event brought together leaders from Rosatom and DP World – who are working together to develop a pilot container line through the NSR – with international logistics and environmental experts to discuss how this new economic corridor could add sustainable capacity to the global supply chain.

Speaking in his opening address H. E. Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Group Chairman & CEO of DP World, highlighted how “customers want a reliable and resilient solution that is everlasting, and that is what we can see today with the Northern Sea Route.”

“With what the supply chain is facing today with delays, congestion, unreliable routes and higher shipping costs, now is the best time to look at this route. This is why we partnered with Rosatom to start this operation, which we believe will fulfill a solution that people are looking for. It will reduce costs, reduce emissions and make it easier for the supply chain to overcome existing problems,” said Mr. Bin Sulayem.

With the Northern Sea Route presenting the shortest maritime route between East Asia and North-Western Europe, the economic advantages of the new transit corridor are clear. The panelists all agreed, however, that protecting the environment must be a priority when developing the route. 

Paul Holthus, Founding President and CEO of the World Ocean Council, agreed that new trade routes would help to overcome the global logistics challenges exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, but only if they are developed sustainably.

“There are needs and opportunities for new trade routes. If these are done responsibly, it is adding to the security and resiliency of the global economy,” said Mr Holthus.

He added: “There is an opportunity to develop the NSR in a way that contributes to the reduction of CO2 and drives innovation in the maritime and transport world.”

Monitoring the Arctic environment 

Ensuring the Northern Sea Route is developed in an environmentally sensitive manner is crucial for guaranteeing the long-term sustainability of the route.

Together with Lomonosov Moscow State University Marine Research Centre and Akvaplan-niva, a subsidiary of the Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Rosatom has launched a large-scale pilot environmental monitoring programme to help assess the current state of the Arctic marine ecosystems. An international expert group (IEG) made up of 37 academic and public institutions from around the world was then set up, which is responsible for reviewing the results of the monitoring and providing recommendations for a framework of regular environmental monitoring through a series of consultations and meetings.

The programme’s scope includes evaluating historic data on the Arctic environment, reviewing Russian and international regulatory frameworks and carrying out ecological monitoring along the Northern Sea Route.

Nikolay Shabalin, Executive Director of the Lomonosov Moscow State University Marine Research Centre, spoke at the EXPO event to share details of the programme.

According to Mr Shabalin, the purpose of the research is to evaluate the impact of shipping along the Northern Sea Route in an integrated manner using state-of-the-art technologies, including remote methods of environmental research.

From August to October 2021, Mr Shabalin’s team carried out a first-of-its-kind expedition to collect environmental data from 50 sites along the entirety of the route. Joined by international partners, including the Finnish Environment Institute, Norway’s Institute of Marine Research, the UK’s Marine Biological Association and France’s Cedre, the team will use this data to create the framework for continual environmental monitoring of the NSR.

“The data gained from our study will allow us to create integrated approaches to protect the environment and biodiversity of the Arctic while making the development of the NSR and logistics in the Arctic as sustainable as possible,” Mr Shabalin told Zawya after the EXPO event.

“These challenges can be overcome by carefully planning and implementing an integrated environmental monitoring system, which is based on world-leading sustainable shipping practices,” said Mr Shabalin.

A robust, scientifically-sound framework for regular environmental monitoring of the Northern Sea Route will be the eventual outcome of the Rosatom-backed research programme. The IEG is currently evaluating all the data and conclusions of the expedition, which will form the basis for the new framework. The IEG recommendations will be intended for all users of the NSR and will contribute to the long-term development of sustainable shipping. 

A viable sustainable shipping solution

The EXPO event highlighted how the Northern Sea Route presents an opportunity to innovate and lead the way in sustainable shipping.

Traffic along the route has already grown by three times since 2017, and volumes are set to increase steadily as the partnership between Rosatom and DP World deepens.

Mr Holthus said during the event that there is “an inherent opportunity and value in the Northern Sea Route in reducing CO2 emissions” due to shorter Eurasian transit times.

This is a sentiment shared by Mr Shabalin. He told Zawya that sustainable shipping in the Arctic “is realistic, but requires an integrated approach, as well as methodical and consistent actions in terms of ensuring the environmental safety of the NSR.”

“We must clearly understand the sources of impact on the Arctic’s marine ecosystems and be able to adequately assess the ecological footprint of our actions,” he added.


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