(The Moscow Times) Long-discussed Russian plans to develop an Arctic passage rivaling the Suez Canal are finally coming closer to reality, even as low oil prices threaten the financial viability of the route.
After years of little government action, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in June signed off on plans to raise traffic through the icy waters of the passage, known as the Northern Sea Route (NSR), by 20 times to a staggering 80 million tons of freight annually by 2030.
"This is the shortest route connecting Europe with the Far East, from the Asian-Pacific region to the Western half of North America," Medvedev was quoted as saying in a statement on the government's website. […]
"The Arctic is a very dangerous place to cross, compared to most other places that shipping companies go to," said Dmitry Gorenburg, a naval expert at the Virginia-based CNA think tank said. Although other commercial shipping lanes have hazards of their own — pirates off the coast of Somalia, for example — the Arctic's ice is not to be taken lightly. "Shipping companies want to make sure there is someone to come and rescue them if they get stuck in the ice, even if they have to pay for it," Gorenburg said.
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