The Northern Sea Route -International Law and Russian Regulations

01 April 2020


This paper aims to clarify the EU’s contribution to the establishment of the Arctic order. In forming Arctic policy and legal order, it is essential to examine current international and Russian domestic laws, which practically control the shipping route through the Arctic Sea, i.e. the Northern Sea Route (NSR). Discussions of those laws would indicate how the EU can contribute to a safe and sustainable use of the NSR, and form a stable Arctic order. The points that necessitate further discussion are (i) the legal status of the NSR and (ii) correlations between international and Russian domestic laws for the safe transportation of nuclear materials. A comprehensive legal system applicable to the NSR and the Arctic will be further shaped by coordinating international and domestic laws. Two conclusions can be drawn from the discussions. First, a possible theoretical EU contribution to the shaping of the Arctic order lies in verifying the relationship between international law and Russian regulations so that the NSR and the Arctic order will also benefit the EU. Second, a practical aspect of the EU’s involvement in the shaping of an Arctic order is that the EU can contribute by providing reliable navigation capabilities that cover the Arctic region. The NSR needs to address technological issues, e.g. anti-spoofing measures, to maintain regular operation of GNSSs such as GLONASS. Consequently, the EU can cooperate with Arctic states in order to harmonize these rules and contribute to a safe, stable and sustainable Arctic regional order.


Author: Mika Okochi, EIAS Visiting Fellow and Associate Professor at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology