After more then 70 years of cold war, international cooperation seems to melt the political ice along the coast of Siberia. New and very interesting shipping prospect have brought the Northeast-passage back to the political and technological agenda. Compared to a southern route, the Northern Sea Route (NSR) of Russia will reduce the distance from Northern Europe to the Northern Pacific with approx 50%. In addition to the reduced distance enormous natural resources on the coast of Siberia will contribute to make the NSR the nautical challenge of the next century.
The question of investigate the international shipping potential on the Norther Sea Route (figure 1) was in Norway first highlighted during an Arctic training project at Tromsø Maritime college in 1∼89. The college had for a long t1me been anX10US to loose the old competence in Arctic navigation, obtained through the traditional sealing activity. Through an agreement with Murmansk Shipping Company we were 1n 1990 allowed to sail into Siberian waters on the company's vessels and study the shipping activity and pilot services in the Kara Sea. In 1991 a110wence to join the ice-classed merchant vessel "Kapitan Danilkin" on a northern voyage from Norway to Hong Kong was obtained (Kjerstad, 1992b). At this time the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Oslo had started an inter-national and multi-disciplinary pilot study of the Northern Sea Route, where we participated. Through this projects shipping on the Northern Sea Route is perceived as being a technological and economical challenge, but ecologica1- and sovereignty questions are also highlighted (0streng, 1992).
From early times European people had a dream of a short northern passage to the Far East. Encouraged by big rewards and honor, many explorers tried to navigate this challenging area in the remote north.