Putin wants to block non-Russian access to Arctic sea routes

Washington Times:
Russian lawmakers looking to boost the country’s energy and shipping industries are weighing a ban on foreign-flagged ships from the strategically critical Northern Sea Route across the Arctic.

During a recent shipbuilding conference, President Vladimir Putin discussed the proposal to grant only Russian vessels transport rights to the route, which is claimed by Russia.

“This step will increase the volume of shipping, will strengthen the position of domestic shipping companies, create additional opportunities to upgrade their fleet,” Mr. Putin said, according to the Russian news agency Tass. “The corresponding bill is now being considered by the State Duma, and I expect that it will be adopted soon.”

The protectionist rhetoric has alarmed international shipping and trade analysts, who argue that the plan could be illegal and counterproductive to stimulating long-term Arctic Sea oil and gas extraction.

The shortest shipping lane from Europe to the Pacific Ocean, the Northern Sea Route essentially traverses the top of the world through Russia’s Arctic and Far East regions.

Vessels sailing from Southeast Asia to Europe that take the route shave about nine days off each trip — almost half their sailing time — compared with navigating the traditional shipping lanes through the Suez and Panama canals.

Arctic hydrocarbon reserves are also staggering, with an estimated billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas — roughly 16 percent to 26 percent of the world’s undiscovered reserves — buried beneath the icy waters.
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History has shown that blocking trade routes is counterproductive.  Columbus discovered America because Muslims had blocked the European trade routes to India.   The Russians are also notoriously inefficient when it comes to ship building.  restricting access to only their ships is likely to shrink trade to their own country.

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