Investment Portal of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation

Arctic Cruises: Unique Catalyst for NSR Development

Off to the land of polar bears!

3 march 2024

In 2024, the nuclear icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy plans to undertake 6 cruises via the Northern Sea Route. Visitors to the Russian Polar region will have the opportunity to explore the Russian Arctic National Park, where they can enjoy the wild Arctic landscape in complete safety and comfort. "The route is popular due to its uniqueness and the comfortable accommodations provided on the icebreaker. The territories of the Russian Arctic are also visited by travelers aboard ice-class yachts. Their routes are determined by the ice conditions and weather," noted Alexander Kirillov, Director of the National Park. Usually, the yachts are escorted by protected area staff, ensuring both the safety of tourists and the preservation of nature. Typically, the tour lasts anywhere from 12 to 30 days.

Walruses, seals, polar bears, bird colonies, and glaciers have remained consistently popular attractions for decades, despite the challenges of navigating through ice. Tourists are informed beforehand that the tour itinerary may undergo significant changes due to weather and ice conditions. However, neither this nor the relatively high cost of the trip — equivalent to the price of a new budget segment urban crossover — deters people. On the opposite end of the Northern Sea Route, in the Far East, Arctic tours are also experiencing a surge in demand.

The retrofitted research vessel Professor Khromov has scheduled 13 voyages for the coming year, three more than in the previous period. Tourists will be heading to the shores of Chukotka, the Beringia National Park, and Wrangel Island to see Pleistocene fauna.

Arctic tourism plays a crucial role in the development of the Northern Sea Route. In 2018, it was included in the federal target program Development of Domestic and Inbound Tourism in the Russian Federation (2019-2025) and continues to receive regular support at both regional and federal levels. Tourists not only bring revenue to the Russian polar fleet and protected areas, but also contribute to the development of surrounding territories. The increase in regular cruises along the Northern Sea Route facilitates the expansion of port infrastructure, introduction of new services, and creation of additional jobs along the route — where there's demand, supply follows. Despite their relatively small scale in terms of guest numbers, polar cruises significantly contribute to the development of NSR infrastructure and civil maritime traffic in Russian Arctic waters.


"Tourism can become an industry comparable in importance to industry and mining for regions of the Russian North, being one of the most multiplicative industries that stimulates the development of related areas and the region's economy," noted Yana Testina, associate professor of the Department of Country Studies and International Tourism at St. Petersburg State University, two years ago. Today, it's safe to say her prediction has come true.


Interestingly, Arctic cruise tourism also solves another problem — it provides a use for obsolete nuclear-powered ships. Currently, the only representative of this kind is the icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy, which was launched in 1993. On one hand, the ship is fully operational and can continue to navigate the Arctic Ocean for many more decades. On the other hand, in the near future, Russian waters will see the arrival of such powerful vessels that the old ship will seem less efficient in comparison. Refitting an icebreaker into a cruise ship allows for the preservation of a valuable resource without any losses — add a bar, swimming pool, gym, library, and comfortable cabins, and the icebreaker can continue to operate for a very long time. Incidentally, 50 Let Pobedy also transports schoolchildren and students to the North Pole as part of large-scale educational programs. In the future, as new vessels are introduced, an "honorary retirement" could be an excellent way to extend the lifespan of a complex and reliable ship.


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