Development of the Northern Sea Route: How great is the need for satellite observation? The Europe & Space Series n°14, March 2014
The sea route between Europe and Asia is significantly shorter via Arctic waters than via the Suez Canal. Changes in global climate have resulted in a diminishing of ice in Arctic waters. This has resulted in the Northern Sea Route establishing itself as a viable commercial alternative, which is expected to expand in the years ahead. Satellite observation is one of the methods employed to gather information about ice conditions, weather and oil spills, and is a prerequisite for ensuring the continued development of the new traffic.
The European colonial powers started investigating whether there were shorter transport routes via northern waters as early as in the 17th century. However, it was not until 1879 that the Swedish-Finnish explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskjold, as the first Western explorer, sailed to the Bering Strait. The transport route was expanded during the Soviet era, and in 1978 the first year-round transportation of iron and other metals commenced between Yenisey in the east and Murmansk in the west, supported by icebreakers in winter. Foreign vessels were first granted permission to traffic between east and west in Russian northern waters in July 1991, just a few months after the collapse of the Soviet Union. (Download the document in attached to read the full tex)