Investment Portal of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation

International Tiksi: prospects for the development of a transport hub

The second birth of Yakutia's port

21 july 2023

In early summer, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed a decree granting international status to the port of Tiksi. Foreign ships can now call at it—as part of the development of the North Sea Route, the lonely settlement, frozen on the shores of the Laptev Sea, is once again being transformed into an important transport hub. According to preliminary forecasts by the country's leadership, the port's cargo turnover will reach 30 mn tons a year in the near future. The new status has documented the transformation of Tiksi from a military camp to an international port, which will now actually become Russia's 'sea gateway.'

The military in the arms of the Yakut tundra

In 1933, the construction of the port and settlement began to ensure the development of the North Sea Route and navigation along the Lena River basin. A total of 5,400 tons of supplies were delivered to the Arctic Circle during the first year—first the houses for the expedition members, a weather station, a radio broadcasting station and warehouses were built. Construction of the piers began in 1938.

The port of Tiksi was originally seen as an outpost of civilisation on the North Sea Route, combining military and research functions. During the Great Patriotic War, Tiksi was the base for convoys that sailed in the western sector of the Soviet Arctic. Then there was a squadron of Tu-95MS intercontinental bombers, reconnaissance capabilities for intercepting probable enemy communications, air defence and maintenance and security personnel.

Scientists were a separate cohort—since 1957, the Polar Geocosmophysical Observatory in Tiksi had been active in studying the Earth's magnetic field, northern lights and cosmic ray intensity.

In 1989, the settlement had more than 11,000 inhabitants and regular flights ran not only to Yakutsk but also to Moscow. Tiksi was comparable to many regional centres in terms of the number of inhabitants and the degree of infrastructure development, the level of well-being of the population and the accessibility of all kinds of 'deficits.' It was not easy for the average person to get there—the settlement was almost secret, completely military and completely closed to Soviet citizens.  

After the fall of the USSR, the settlement fell into disrepair and neglect. In time, however, the outpost of civilisation was defended. Since 2018, Tiksi has been slowly coming back to life, and with the emergence of AZRF, it has become one of the priority development areas.

A new life at the seaside

In the coming years, Tiksi will become primarily a logistics hub, shifting the focus from the military component to transporting cargo along the North Sea Route. To this end, the new port of Naiba is being built, which will be able to accommodate vessels with a draught of up to 10 m, handling around 23.1 mn tons of cargo per year. In comparison, over the past three years, cargo turnover in Tiksi is about 600,000 tons.

Its international status, on the other hand, allows it not only to handle cargo but also to receive foreign ships directly. This requires at least doubling the current infrastructure of the settlement—hotels, shops, customs, security and control agencies, as well as the port itself needs to be built and then maintained. It is likely that the local population will return to 1989 levels in the coming years.

Combined with the preferences of the AZRF, the explosive growth of the economy of a polar settlement could become very attractive to investors, and not just large ones. The demand in the local service, hospitality and logistics market for new solutions will soon be very high. And problems with local infrastructure are being solved and solved successfully. In the near future, a fibre-optic cable will be brought to Tiksi, which will connect the settlement directly to the Internet, and the water supply and heating system are being repaired and reconstructed. Since 2018, a unique wind-diesel power plant with a capacity of up to 3.9 MW has been generating electricity there, and new houses are being built in place of the old ones, using modern technology. They are made from sandwich panels mounted on a frame—fast, efficient and warm. Regular flights to Yakutsk complete the picture of a resurgent Arctic port.

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