Future shipping activities depend considerably on the expansion rate of the oil-and-gas related industry in the northern areas, which in turn depends on both regional and global economic developments. Global warming and a subsequent increase of ice-free shipping routes through Arctic waters could also significantly contribute to increase of shipping traffic.
Arctic development issues are in focus in Russia. Some years ago, major Russian oil companies had ambitious plan to build a 100 million ton trunk oil pipeline from the Western Siberia to Murmansk. The project did not go through, but new initiatives on development of Russian railways, Arctic ports and NSR came into the agenda. During the next 5 years, the northern Timano-Pechora oil fields and Varandey terminal will transport about 10 million tonnes of crude a year and play a major role in oil shipments increase from the Russian Barents. The Prirazlomnaya platform in the Pechora Sea, that started production in 2013, should produce about 6 million tonnes of oil when it becomes fully operational which will be exported by ship. Yamal LNG and Novy Port terminal that are under construction in the Ob Bay will export most of produced LNG, gas condensate and crude oil westwards via the Barents Sea. When the plan for development of Murmansk Transportation Complex is realised, we will see more oil and refined products coming north by the railway. Table 4.4.8 gives an overview of existed and prospected capacities of the main terminals shipping Russian crude oil and petroleum products for export.
Table 4.4.8. Existing and prospected capacities of main Arctic terminals off-loading Russian crude oil and petroleum products for export (in thousands tonnes) (Bambulyak and Frantzen 2009).
The liquid natural gas (LNG) plant at Melkøya is shipping LNG, liquified petroleum gas (LPG), and gas condensates. Working at full capacity, Melkøya ships about 5 million tonnes of LNG, LPG, and gas condensate per year. This results in about 70 annual shipments of gas from Melkøya, in addition to about 300 tankers carrying Russian export petroleum cargoes westwards along the Barents Sea coast. An increasing share of container ships and bulk cargo can be expected if the published plans for development of terminals in Murmansk, Kirkenes, and/or Narvik are realised (Rautio and Bambulyak, 2012).
Following 2014, several gas and oil fields may come into operation during the next five years. From the west, Goliat was planned to go into operation in late 2015. In the Kara Sea, huge gas fields on Yamal (Tambey fields) may ship LNG and condensate from Sabettaport and Yamal.
Shipments of LNG and gas condensate from the Shtokman field in the Russian sector of the Barents Sea had been expected to start in 2014, but the project has been postponed to indefinite time.
No significant changes are expected in the volume of ship traffic due to fishery activities in the area. There are considerable seasonal variations in the fishing industry. This applies especially to the maritime fishing fleet with its large cruising range.
The forecasts for future volumes of dangerous goods shipments are not clear. Assuming that Europe remains the primary market for Russian oil, there are estimates that forecast a steady increase from 15 million tonnes in 2010 to 50 million tonnes in 2025. Other forecasts can be built assuming that Asia or North America will become major markets for Russian arctic oil and gas.
Container ships are a rather new phenomenon in this region. These vessels are becoming increasingly larger, and they carry large amounts of bunker fuel. Container ships are more vulnerable to bad weather and high seas, especially with regard to shifting cargo. An increase in traffic for this type of vessel may thus imply a higher risk of acute pollution events unless considerable measures are put in place to mitigate this.
Shipping traffic will increase in correlation with petroleum activities in the region. If the extent of petroleum activity increases considerably, the volume of petroleum-related ship traffic will also increase. As a consequence, the risk of acute pollution from this traffic will also increase, unless an efficient emergency pollution prevention system is established.
The Ballast Water Management Convention signed in 2004 regulates discharges of ballast water and sediments. Implementation and the general increase in awareness of the problems associated with ballast water are expected to reduce the risk of negative impacts on the environment. It is much more difficult to reduce the risk of introduction of alien species attached to ships’ hulls. This is because the most effective anti-fouling systems themselves have negative impacts on the environment. IMO have recently started discussing regulation of organisms attached to ships hulls.
In the Norwegian management plan for the Norwegian part of the Barents Seas (Report no 8 to the Storting), there is given a qualitative comparison of risk levels by analyses of the current situation (2005) and activity scenarios for 2020. The maritime transport currently involves a higher level of risk exposure in the management plan area than the expected risk exposure from all planned activities in 2020. However, this conclusion was based on assumptions relating to knowledge development, technological advances, and the introduction of traffic separation schemes between 2005 and 2020, in line with existing plans in 2005, and may be affected by new or future activities. Despite the expected increase in the volume of maritime transport by 2020, the analyses indicated that the implementation of measures such as a minimum sailing distance from the coast, traffic separation schemes and vessel traffic service centres would reduce the risk of oil spills associated with maritime transport by half from 2003 to 2020, and that the environmental consequences in 2020 should be comparable with those in 2003.