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Arctic, environmental alert: Russia allows unsupported oil tankers to pass through the Northern Sea Route

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LONDON — As if the war in Ukraine wasn’t tragic enough, Russia under Vladimir Putin could also cause a massive environmental catastrophe. The scenario is also a result of the brutal aggression in Ukraine. Because Moscow, in order to avoid sanctions and problems in selling its crude oil, has been doing so for some time Sending oil tankers to the Arctic OceanThus using the impregnable northern route, rather than the safer and more traditional southern route.

as Financial TimesThis month there were at least two Russian ships delivering oil to China from a port Murmask (Northern Russia) I decided to sail around Siberia, crossing the Bering Strait with Alaska and heading south to dock in China’s Rizhao. The route is about 5,600 km long and takes 10 fewer days (35 versus 45) than the traditional route starting from Primorsk (Gulf of Finland) and passes through the Strait of Suez. A trip that would save Moscow about half a million euros each way, among other things, in fuel alone. Malte Humbert, a journalist at the specialized magazine, told the Financial Times: “This indicates the desperation of Russia, which therefore threatens the environment.” High North Newswhich first revealed these risky operations by Russia.

The most worrying aspect is that at the beginning of September Moscow used non-ice ships on two of these trips to Asia. That is, it is not reinforced and without a double safety structure. These tankers are Leonid Loza and NS Bravo, which have been in operation for 12 and 13 years respectively, and can transport up to 1 million barrels of crude oil. according to Financial Timesthat it For the first time in the modern era.

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In these conditions, in the event of a collision with an iceberg or ice-related accidents, the tanker is likely to experience more or less serious leaks, leading to a potential environmental disaster. With theoretically more disastrous consequences, because emergency vehicles would have difficulty reaching the area and operating.

The Northern Route through the Arctic is one of the most dangerous routes in the world for shipping oil. The fact is that Russia resorted to it only once in 2022, and with a reinforced “Ice” class tanker. During the summer months, when the ice sheets are thinner, passage is facilitated due to heat, and now also due to global warming. Thus, the competent Russian agency Rosatom recently allowed travel in the period from July to November also for non-reinforced ships: “We have always acted in the name of safety and care very much about the environment,” emphasizes the authority. He does not agree Charlie Chronic to Greenpeace UK“Ice in these areas is unpredictable due to very strong winds and currents. The use of unarmed oil tankers significantly increases the risk of accidents and, consequently, environmental disasters.

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