The Arctic hub ports future trajectory predictions

(Photo: GettyImages)(Photo: GettyImages)


Warming climate brings new opportunities for international transportation networks and offers lessening of Arctic maritime navigation distances at least during summer months. Opening of Northern Sea Route increases the need for new ports and modern infrastructure to service ships that plough through ice free and ice covered waters.

With such a growing complexity of Arctic Marine Shipping there has emerged a hierarchical multiplicity of shipping networks.

The key characteristics of Arctic shipping tracks focus on fewer ports of call and the deployment of bigger vessels.

The Arctic shipping arteries are operated by abundant vessels and icebreakers, sailing between principal locations behind the Arctic Circle, Europe and Asia, which means that they need to be supported by well conducted system of hubs.

Shipping ports are mostly located not far from the city cores as main haul activities prevail there in the first place. A supply of labor force to perform intensive cargo handling activities is another reason for ports to be located close to larger agglomerations.


Arctic hub ports are locating shipping operations in highly accessible places and because of their direct connections to many key cities, they play significant role in the development of Arctic shipping industry.


Statistics show that Murmansk Oblast is the biggest Arctic shipping hub. Located on the Koala peninsula at the coast of Barents Sea, is the non-freezing port which can service any type of vessels. In the near future it will face major modernization process as a part of Russian objective to develop industrial facilities along the Koala Bay. The same way as Norwegian and Icelandic shipping hubs is not only operating on ice-free Northwest Passage but creates the possibilities to service the Northern Sea Route when that is established.


The Murmansk shipping hub is not the only Russian port to be playing the key role in Arctic marine shipping. The port of Petropavlovsk at the coast of Kamchatka is to be developed as an eastern hub for the Norwegian Sea Route. According to the newest Russian reports, the port of Petropavlovsk is going to play a major international role as it will become the hub for all vessels operating the route.

With the opening of Northern Sea Route the importance of Singapore global hub, located on the southern end of the Malay in Southeast Asia, will increase significantly. Nowadays, port of Singapore, placed in a center of a web of trade and connected to more than 600 ports in over 120 countries, is the premier world shipping hub. Development of Northern Sea Route will make it the Asian gateway to the Arctic.

The Arctic Gateway strategy involves not only the Asian port of Singapore but also Canadian port of Halifax located in the strategic point in Nova Scotia, off the Arctic Ocean. The plain aims to develop the Canadian anchorage as an entrance for container traffic sailing into North America via Arctic Ocean. With the melting ice and extending the Arctic shipping season, it is likely for Halifax to handle Chinese imports transported by rail to Murmansk via Moscow and then shipped over to the Northern part of the world.

(Graph: the Arctic Portal) Comparative Overview: Ports Length and Depth(Graph: the Arctic Portal) Comparative Overview: Ports Length and Depth

Comparative Overview - Ports Length and Depth


The graph analyses depth and length of previously mentioned hub ports. Research by Icelandic Maritime Administration shows that the depth of Vopnafjörður trans-shipping harbor steeply goes down to over 70 m what prominently exceeds the depth of already existing hub ports.

Only port of Murmansk and international harbor of Halifax seem to amount with the future Icelandic trans-shipping anchorage.


Contrasted with the most important gateway to China, the port of Shanghai, which despite of the infrastruction improvements, still seems to occur as the most shallow trans-shipment hub serving the Arctic routes.

Comparative study on the length of particular trans-shipment hubs includes dimensions of fairways and roads, berths and terminals. Research shows no significant difference between selected trans-shipment hubs with the port of Shanghai being slightly larger in length than other mentioned hubs.




(Map: Arctic Portal) Sailing Directions from main Arctic transhipment hubs(Map: Arctic Portal) Sailing Directions from main Arctic transhipment hubsSailing Directions from main Arctic trans-shipment hubs
The Arctic network of hubs highly simplifies and integrates navigation and transportation between key locations marked on the map below. The centralization of a port control makes it easier and more cost - efficient for both stated owned and private companies to operate from the key locations to minor venues.


By cutting down the distances between principal ports the risk of error will be reduced to minimum and security standards improved.

Opening of new shipping routes through the Arctic and possibilities of centralizing trans-shipment operations in key port locations will surely cut existing oceanic transit times by days, saving the shipment companies thousands of miles in travel.


Taking into account fees, cost of fuel and other variable expenses that determine freight rates, concentration of shipping management will reduce the cost of single voyage by a large container vessel more than 20%.

The savings could be even greater if the bigger ship is taken into consideration. That would lower the cost of trade and in the effect, the cost of goods in hardly accessible areas.

Significantly, three major Arctic shipping hubs, by using its unique geographical position, are developing the framework for marine development, adapted to and benefiting from an international coaction.


Unquestionably, the biggest value of Murmansk, Kirkenes and East Icelandic port, is the future possibility to service the Northern Sea Route when the one is established but the operations on regional and local level should not be forgotten.


Please, be reffered to interactive database to see the most important Arctic seaports. To see marine ports located in all Arctic states, open the drop down menu on the right hand side and scroll down to choose the country of interest.





Source: Opening Of New Arctic Shipping Routes; The Northern Directions - Arctic Gateway Summit

International Polar Year The Northern Forum University of the Arctic Arctic Council International Arctic Science Comittee Norden Arctic Portal

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