Russia to Complete first new New Sea Port in Decades
Western sanctions have prompted Russia to give top priority to key transportation infrastructure projects that it has in the past postponed. In May, President Putin gave the directive that Russian transportation should be reorientated away from Europe and to the East and South. A crucial component of this is the completion of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) going from St. Petersburg, on the Baltic, down through the Caspian Sea and on to Iran, and then to the Indian port of Mumbai. This project, which will serve to integrate all of Central Asia, was featured in the discussions at the 6th Caspian Sea Summit hosted by Turkmenistan President Serdar Berdimuhamedov, with the participation of Vladimir Putin and his counterparts from Azerbaijan, Iran and Kazakhstan.
As St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad have come under the threat of western sanctions and other anti-Russian policies, Moscow has decided to anchor the northern part of the ISNTC, not at St Petersburg, but at a new Arctic Port on the Kola peninsula, in Murmansk. President Putin, in a meeting with Murmansk Region Governor Andrey Chibis on June 20, confirmed that it will be the country’s largest commercial port, and the first to be built in decades.
The new port is at Lavna, on the western shore of the Kola Bay and because of its great depth, does not freeze. The project had been initiated several years ago to transport coal to Germany, but it was thrown into question after Berlin drastically cut back on coal imports in 2020 as part of its campaign to reduce CO2 emissions. Nonetheless, the coal terminal with an annual capacity of 18 mn tons and 46 km of railway infrastructure is to be completed by 2023. Other facilities are also planned for other mineral exports as well as general cargo.
Boris Komotsky, a member of the State Duma Committee on the Development of the Far East and the Arctic, commented to URA.Ru that the Northern Sea Route is especially important, as it will allow Russia to pass through its own territory for shipping (thus avoiding the Baltic Sea), and this “will strengthen the sovereignty of Russia”.
Mikhail Blinkin, director of the Institute for Transport Economics and Transport Policy at the Higher School of Economics told URA.RU that “Murmansk will become the sea gates of Russia. In ‘peaceful’ times, this was only actively discussed, but in the current force majeure conditions, there is no time for talking. For the country, this is no longer a luxury, but a necessity”.
The southern end of the Russian part of the INSTC is centered in the region of the Caspian Sea and here Russia has decided, after many years of indecision, to reconstruct the Volga-Don shipping canal and waterway, connecting the Caspian and Black seas via the 101 km long canal between the Volga and Don rivers. The project includes the dredging of the full length of the waterway to a depth of 4.5 meters to allow safe passage for heavier ships, for which Chinese companies may be enlisted.