In numbers, fishery activities currently account for most of the shipping traffic. The cruise industry contributes to annual and seasonal variations. A large share of the goods to, as well as within, Norway's three northernmost counties is transported by ship. For Russia, sea shipping is of great importance connecting territories with each other and playing a vital role in external economic activities. The role of sea shipping remains essential in supporting the life of coastal communities in Russia.
The biggest liquid commodity carried by ships are oil, crude and products, being carried from northern Russia and Northern Norway to destinations in Europe and some to Northern America, by LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gases) carriers from Melkøya and product tankers to Norwegian and Russian oil depots. In 2008, eight terminals in the Russian Arctic from Ob Bay in Kara Sea to Kola Bay in the Barents Sea received crude, oil products and gas condensate by production pipelines, river tankers and railways over land and shipped the load by sea for export.
A number of small sea tankers went from those terminals all the way to European and American destinations, but most of the petroleum load was transhipped in the ice free areas of the Barents Sea, at FSO in the Kola Bay or STS (ship to ship transfer) terminals in the Northern Norway. According to Russian port administrations, customs and terminal operators, did the eight terminal in the Russian arctic offloaded about 10 million tons of liquid hydrocarbons for export annually (measurement for the four last year) (Figure 2.5.12.)
Figure 2.5.12. Number of vessel transits with noxious cargo (with the potential to pollute if discharged to the environment) through the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea in the years 2004 - 2008. (Report from the Norwegian Forum on Environmental Risk in the Barents Sea Source: Armed Forces Norway)
A new terminal: Varandey with a capacity of 12.5 million ton/year was set in operation in June 2008. In January 2009 it exported 550 thousand tons of crude. In 2009 it is expected that about 7 million tons of Timano-Pechora oil will be transported by ship for export. It is predicted, that Varandey and other terminals will ship about 15 million tons of Russian crude and petroleum products for export via the Barents Sea in 2009.
In addition to Russian oil and petroleum products transported by the Barents Sea, in 2007 Snøhvit gas field and LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) plant on Melkøya started to produce and ship gas condensate, LNG and LPG. In 2007, Melkøya offloaded 67 000 tons of gas condensate, and 131 000 tons of LNG. In 2008, they shipped almost 2 million tons of gas products a year. The export prognoses for 2009-2013 are to offload annually 4.3 million tons of LNG, 460 000 tons of LPG, and 220 000 tons of condensate.
Recent analyses of the tanker traffic show that the type of cargo has been changing. The volume of transported crude oil has increased by 52% and gas condensate by 25% since 2007. However, there is an element of uncertainty in these data, as the control of unknown shipments was improved from 2007 to 2008. It has been claimed that the increase in crude oil shipments indicates that Russia is routing more oil to the north (Bambulyak, A. and Frantzen, B. (2009)).
According to Russian port administrations and terminal operators, in 2008 the share of crude oil in the exported liquid hydrocarbon cargo from the Russian Barents was 38%, gas condensate – 20%, naphtha – 26%, heavy fuel oil – 5%, and other oil products – 11%. The increase in crude oil shipments in 2008 happened as a result of start up production at a big Yuzhno Khylchuyu oil field in northern Timano-Pechora and the new Varandey terminal set in operation. At the same time, decline in heavy fuel oil export happened due to internal challenges at two terminals in the Kola Bay. In the future, the share of crude in Russian exports through the Barents Sea will be increased thanks to Varandey operation; at the same time we may see decrease in refined products delivered to the ports of Vitino and Murmansk by railway when Ust’-Luga port in the Baltic is put on stream.
Ship to ship transfer (STS)
The first STS terminal was established in the Kola Bay of the Barents Sea back in 2002. For the period from 2002 to 2004, five more STS and FSO (Floating Storage and Offloading vessel) terminals were established in the Ob Bay of the Kara Sea, the Onega Bay of the White Sea, and the Kola Bay. STS terminal in the Onega Bay transhipped heavy fuel oil in 2003 and was closed after the accidental oil spill. One STS terminal in the Kola Bay worked for three months only in 2004 and was closed. STS in the Ob Bay tranship crude from Western Siberia during summer and send to FSO Belokamenka in the Kola Bay. Belokamenka also receives Timano-Pechora crude from the terminals in Varandey and Arkhangelsk. Two tankers are also used as FSO for heavy fuel oil at two by-port terminals in the Kola Bay.
In Norwegian part of the Barents Sea STS transfer of petroleum products has been carried out since 2002 at two sites in Finnmark, Bøkfjorden and Sarnesfjorden. Gas condensate is the main product being transhipped on these locations today, but there are pending applications for STS transfer of other products, such as crude oil, petrol and naphtha.
As long as tankers sail along the coast, there are established shipping lanes, but the traffic to and from the STS transfer sites in the fjords will go close to land. Transfers in the fjords, either at dockside or under anchor, are considered to be Norwegian industrial activity, and is thus under control of the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT) and the Norwegian Coastal Administration (Kystverket). STS transfers outside of Norwegian territorial waters, as long as the ships are under their own engine power, are subject to the provisions of the MARPOL Convention, Annex I.
Discharges from maritime transport
The day-to-day impacts of shipping on the environment are caused by ordinary operational discharges. Discharges of sludge and oily bilge water from machinery spaces and discharges of oil and oily mixtures from the cargo area (slops) are regulated internationally by MARPOL 73/78 (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships). The Convention permits a certain level of discharges of oily bilge water and oily mixtures from tank washings. However, all ships are required to have segregated ballast tanks by 2010, and this will almost eliminate discharges of oily ballast water. Oil slicks on the sea with unidentified source are reported every year, and most of these are assumed to come from illegal discharges from ships.
Introduction of alien species
Maritime transports to Norway and tanker traffic to Northwest Russia are currently dominated by vessels from large European ports. These tend largely to call at ports in the same biogeographical area, and take ballast water from areas where the flora and fauna is similar to that in Norwegian waters. However, there is a risk of the further spread of alien species that are established in these waters to the Barents Sea, either in ballast water or attached to ships’ hulls. Other categories of vessels such as general cargo and container ships operate in a global market. A good many of these are likely to come from foreign ports in other biogeographical zones, but where physical and chemical conditions are similar to those in Barents Sea. In future, there may be a particularly high level of risk associated with use of the Northwest Passage combined with failure to treat ballast water.