According to nuclear.ru the Northern Passage has been successfully navigated first time this year. Two russian nuclear icebreakers supported Panamax class tanker Perseverance sailing through the sea ice to China.

The 73,000-ton Perseverance (width:32m/length:228m) loaded with gas condensate headed off from Murmansk on June 29. With an average speed of 11 knots in the Arctic Ocean the total time to reach China was reduced by about 50% compared to the traditional route through Suez canal.

Other ships are planned to use the NSR this summer and already several ice classification tankers are waiting in Kola Bay ready for the next ice breaker escorted convoy. NOVATEK plans to ship six or seven more cargos of stable gas condensate to markets in the Asian-Pacific region via the Northern Sea Route.

During the course of this year Russia is going to decide where to build more icebreakers. The costs of six new vessels have already been approved by the Russian Finance Ministry. Three of them will be nuclear powered. The fleet of Russian ice capable vessels is already world’s largest.

Earlier this month the Akademik Fedorov left the Norwegian port of Hammerfest to conduct a research mission in the central Arctic basin and reveal scientific evidence that the enormous underwater Lomonosov Ridge is actually a continuation of the Russian shelf. Russia plans to apply in 2012 for an extension of its continental shelf at the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. If accepted, it would reportedly grant Russia nearly one-half of the unclaimed Arctic area.

Russia`s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergej Lavrov, recently stressed in an interview with the “Voice of Russia” that “The five coastal states, the Arctic Five so to say, back in 2008 agreed during their meeting that there is no single problem in the region that cannot be resolved on the basis of existing law, this law being the international Convention of 1982. Then this position was endorsed by the entire Arctic Council which is composed by eight Arctic states.“

The United States is the only Arctic nation that is not a party to the Law of the Sea convention, having first submitted the treaty to the U.S. Senate for approval in 1994 but not yet acceded to it. According to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, if the United States were to become a party to the Treaty, they could lay claim to an area in the Arctic of approximately the size of California.