Artur Chilingarov is Russia's Grand Old Man in Arctic research. (Photo: Trude Pettersen)

Jan. 24, 2013 (TSR) – The Russian federal government will submit its final Arctic territorial claims with the United Nations by the end of the year, the country’s leading Arctic scientist said.

Artur Chilingarov, the veteran explorer who led the expedition to plant a Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole in 2007, told Rossia 24 television that Russia’s claim to a portion of the Arctic shelf would be filed with the United Nations Commission on the Law of the Sea by December.

“I think we are seriously prepared,” he said to The Moscow Times. “We have gathered all the necessary information needed to make a just decision, including the experience of other countries.”

Chilingarov led a series of expeditions over the past few years seeking to prove that the undersea Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of Russia’s continental shelf.

Russia completed seismic surveys of the shelf’s outer limits in October 2012. In the “Arctic-2012” expedition Russia used the Northern Fleet’s unique “Losharik” nuclear-powered deep diving titanium submarine.

The two Russian icebreakers “Dikson” and “Kapitan Dranitsyn” returned after a nearly two month’s long expedition to the East Siberian and Laptev Seas, where they have collected data to support the country’s claims for the Mendeleev ridge in the Arctic Ocean.

The work was carried out by the UK-based seismic exploration firm WPG on behalf of Sevmorgeo. Ahead of the expedition the icebreaker “Dikson” had been converted and outfitted at the Norwegian offshore company KIMEK shipyard in Kirkenes, which involved the installation of a combination of a ‘portable modular source system’, a seismic streamer and associated deck handling equipment, Rigzone writes.

The vessel was able to operate in the Arctic waters during a 45-day period between mid-August and the end of September, during which some 3,300 line kilometers of towed streamer data was acquired, plus acquisition of OBS (Ocean Bottom Seismometers) data.

The vessel and crew were able to push the boundaries of Arctic exploration; working in sea water temperatures down to minus two degrees Centigrade, and working in latitudes up to 83 degrees north.

Should the research establish evidence that the ridge is continuation of Russia’s continental shelf, the country will obtain the priority right to develop its natural resources.

If approved, the claim based on this research would see Russia gain an additional 1.2 million square kilometers of exclusive economic zone. It is believed that Russia might have competing claims with both Denmark/Greenland and Canada in the area of the Lomonosov Ridge.

Chilingarov’s announcement came the same day the government published a new long-term strategy for Arctic development.

The State Program for the Arctic, which defines government policy for at least the next eight years, was published on the Regional Development Ministry’s website Wednesday. Expert opinions on the draft are being accepted until Jan. 29.

The law would establish a mandatory review of any business activities that could pose an environmental hazard, starting from a “presumption of environmental danger of any proposed activity,” RIA-Novosti reported.

In other provisions, the law would bar the privatization of any airlines in the region and allow certain regions to be closed to aircraft for environmental reasons. It would also ban off-road travel in the tundra.

While the document does make note of the need to defend the region, it does not directly mention rumored plans to close areas like the Yamal Peninsula to nonresidents.

The strategy also suggests that Russian domination of the Arctic Sea Route be written into a law, with a stipulation that at least 70 percent of ships operating in the region should be Russian.

It does, however, talk about allocating state financing for the “development and implementation of programs to attract foreign investment to the Arctic zone.”

The new strategy, which will define state policy for the region for President Vladimir Putin’s current presidential term and beyond, was published shortly after the United Nations Environment Program unveiled plans for a $300 million, five-year environmental undertaking in the area.

UNEP Moscow chief Vladimir Moshkalo said the Russian government had asked his agency to oversee development of the program, which will be co-funded by agencies including the Economic Development Ministry, the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.


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