Ice melting and global warming woke up the Arctic neighbors of Russia. Either Barack Obama will call on the Americans to patriotize Alaska as part of an Arctic confrontation with Russia, then Canada will suddenly say that it will develop the Northwest Passage as a competitor to the North Sea Route of Russia ( 1 ). It is a shame for the neighbors that Russia is successfully developing its northern territories, and they also remembered that they also have empty snow-capped ice expanses.

It’s easy, however, to talk about the development of the north, sitting in warm rooms somewhere in Ottawa, where you can also master Mars. That’s just all these words break down about harsh reality, which is pretty sad.

The development of the Northwest Passage ( SPZ ) was associated with the desire of leading maritime powers to find a short way to China and India ( individual projects even assumed straighting through the North Pole to China! ). Of course, the path along the northern coast of Canada is shorter than the circular routes around Africa or South America, but it was absolutely unrealistic to break through heavy ice for wooden sailboats. Although the seafarers did not take perseverance, and a lot of blood, sweat and strength were spent on finding the SPE.

The beginning of the study of the Northwest Pass was laid by Sebastian Cabot in 1498, but the SPS was first fully completed only by Rual Amundsen in 1903 – 1906. But by that time, both Suez and the Panama Canal were already functioning with might and main, so the heroic overcoming of ice was deprived of commercial meaning.

For internal messages, the SPS was also useless. The main wave of colonization in Canada was walking along the steppe south along the border with the United States, the north developed exclusively from the resource point of view ( we will remember the gold rush in Alaska and the Yukon ), and the supply of mining villages went mainly along rivers flowing from south to north ( and the United States supplied Alaska with itself from the Pacific ports )

Military aspect

With so small armies, almost all of Canada’s armed forces are concentrated in the south of the country: only the 1st battalion of Canadian rangers in Yellowknife at 62 p. Sh.

Theoretically, NATO allies can help Canada: Denmark in Greenland, except for 1 − 2 warships and 2 − 3 boats for fishing protection, has a single patrol « Sirius » with 30 personnel. The United States in Alaska has two infantry brigades ( 1st « Stryker » and 4th airborne ).

For comparison: in Russia, in the north-west of the Kola Peninsula, 1 motorized rifle brigade and 1 marine corps ( 2 ) are deployed.


Directly in northern Canada, 118 thousand people live ( 3 ).

For comparison: 11.5 million people live in northern Russia ( 4 ).

In the area of the Northwest Passage on the islands of the Canadian Arctic archipelago, according to A. Lentareva, about 36 thousand people live ( 5 ).

For comparison: 2.5 million people live along the Northern Sea Route ( 6 ).

However, it must be borne in mind that a significant part of this population is indigenous peoples. For example, in Nunavut ( through which most of the SPS ) out of 36,858 people, only 13.3% or 5,210 non-native people pass. In the Northwest Territories of Canada, out of 41,070 inhabitants, only 39.7% or 16,305 are European Canadians. Those. non-native population in northern Canada 21,515 people. The administrative unit North Slope Alaska, located on the coast of the Arctic Ocean, has a population of 7,385 people, of which 31.62% or 2,335 are non-native. In Russia, the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East all total 300 thousand people.

The contrast becomes even brighter when comparing the largest cities in the north.

The largest city on the SPZ highway and the capital Nunavut Ikaluit has as many as 7,741 people, which is closer to the urban-type settlement within Russia. The largest city in the north of the USA, Utkaagwick ( former Barrow ) has even more – 4,443 people. The capital of Danish Greenland, the city of Nuuk is inhabited by 18,128 residents. The largest city in the north of Russia, Arkhangelsk, has 350 thousand people, and the largest city directly on the highway of the Northern Sea Route Murmansk – 267 thousand people.


According to A. Lentareva, there are no ports and port facilities on the NWF, and the closest to the NWF on the east side are the mentioned Ikaluit and Churchill on the west coast of Hudson’s Bay. On the east side, the closest Russian ports on Chukotka and American ports on the Pacific coast of Alaska.

For comparison: along the NSR there are more than 70 large and medium ports ( 7 ).

According to A. Lentareva, on the SPP track there are as many as 4 lighthouses and 3 luminous visual bunks, as well as 12 stationary weather stations.

For comparison: on the NSR track there are 22 lighthouses ( 8 ) and 68 weather stations ( 9 ).

Moreover, according to A. There are no lentareva on the SPP track of its own rescue coordination centers.

For comparison: there are 5 rescue centers ( 10 ) on the NSR track.

Icebreaking fleet

Even according to the US Coast Guard website, Canada has as many as 6 icebreakers in line and 1 in the ( 11 ) project. At the same time, Canada has 3 ice-breaking icebreakers of 3 ( self-melon-covered rarefied ice of non-arctic seas and in continuous icebreaker with ice thickness up to 0.7 m. ): CCGS Pierre Radisson, CCGS Des Groseilliers and CCGS Amundsen, 3 ice-class icebreakers 4 ( self-melting in rarefied annual Arctic ice with their thickness of up to 0.6 m in winter-spring navigation and up to 0.8 m in summer-autumn navigation. Swimming in the canal behind the icebreaker in annual Arctic ice up to 0.7 m thick in winter-spring and up to 1.0 m in summer-autumn navigation. ): CCGS Henry Larsen, CCGS Terry Fox and CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent. It is also planned to launch 1 icebreaker of ice class 2 ( self-floating in shallow rarefied ice of non-arctic seas and in continuous icebreaker after icebreaker at an ice thickness of up to 0.55 m. ): CCGS John G. Diefenbaker

For comparison: the United States has – 5 icebreakers, Denmark has – 4 icebreakers, and Russia has – 37 icebreakers, while only Russia has a fleet of heavy atomic icebreakers up to the highest ice class. At the same time, only 1 ( USSCGC Polar Star ) swims in the United States out of 2 heavy icebreakers, and the USCGC Polar Sea icebreaker sadly rusts at the pier. USCGC Polar Star, due to its advanced age ( 1978, built ) is in disrepair, so only the heavy icebreaker USSCC Healy ( WAGB-20 ) is more or less corrected. Also in the United States there is a private Aiviq icebreaker for transporting stationary anchors and the Nathaniel B scientific icebreaker. Palmer.


As noted by M. Baers, commercial shipping under the SPS is largely single and trial: in 1969 – heavy ice-backed supertanker « SS Manhattan », in 1999 heavy Russian dry cargo ship, in August 2008 – Danish cable ship « Peter Faber », in September 2008, a cargo ship « MV Camilla Desgagnes » delivered cargo from Montreal to 4 settlements of western Nunavut ( 12 ). According to A. Lentareva, the first commercial voyage was the passage of a « Manhattan » tanker in 1969, in 1984, the first passenger ship of the Bahamian liner ( 104 passenger ) with ice strengthening of the hull « Lindblad Explorer », passed the SPL, then in 2013 the Panamanian bulk carrier « Nordic Orion » followed the path was 1 thousand nautical miles shorter than the route through the Pansky Canal, which saved fuel by 80 thousand dollars ( and,the most interesting, from 1992 to 2016, the Russian icebreaker « Captain Khlebnikov » 18 times sailed on SPS.

Also, several cruise ship ( according to A. swims on the SPS. In 1900-1995, 16 passes were made, then during such a period from 2010 to 2015, 101 vessels passed through the SPP, however, we are talking about yachts, tourist and pleasure boats, not commercial shipping ), but the northern dung in Canada and the United States is carried out by air, not by sea.

For comparison: in 2019 alone, 510 ships ( 13 ) were carried out according to the NSR.

Therefore, on the map ( dmitry_v_ch_l ), ships are not visible in the NWN, and the nearest ones are in the Bering Strait.

Geographic situation

As seen by map, The ice situation in the SPS area is much heavier than the NSR: long-term ice reaches the mainland coast of Canada, fettering all passages among the islands of the Canadian Arctic archipelago, while the coast of Russia offers the possibility of ice-free swimming ( 14 ).

Like the Northern Sea Route, sailing through the Northwest Passage is shorter than passage of ships through the Panama and Suez Canal, however, when compared with the NSR, the SPP has no advantages. According to A. Lentareva, the path through the SPS against the background of more difficult ice conditions and a more complex navigation situation from the ports of East Asia to the ports of Western Europe from Rotterdam to the Bering Strait is almost 200 nautical miles longer than the NSR, therefore, SPS can only make sense for transport between the ports of the northern parts of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America.

The fight continues

Meanwhile, Canada, as part of the heroic struggle with Russia, decided to close its only Arctic port in Churchill, from where residents have long been fleeing. However, in Churchill by that time there was no longer any coast guard, no icebreakers, no naval fleet, nor even the coast police.

Earlier in 1968, a naval base was abandoned in the city, in the 1970s a radar installation, and in 1985 a missile test site. The military contingent of 4 thousand military personnel was replaced by more substantial forces in the form of 7 employees of the Institute of Northern Studies ( 15 ).

So now, apparently, Canada’s heroic struggle with Russia for the Arctic will become more grand in Ottawa’s warm offices. It remains only to invite Ostap Bender…


1. Canada stood in the aisle.
2. Military-political situation in the Arctic and scenarios of possible conflicts: Project “Struggle for the Arctic”.
3. Stop lying: Canadians don’t live in the North! Montrealex.
4. Demoscope. Andrew Treivish. Russia: population and space. Too much north.
5. Lentarev A. A. Transit shipping through the North-Western Passage – a close reality or utopia? // Transport business in Russia. – LLC “Editorial office of the newspaper “Morskie Vesti Rossii”, 2020. – No. 5. – P. 131–134.
6. Northern Sea Route: present and future.
7. Milestones of a long journey. Northern sea route and its main ports.
8. Polar stars: who looks after 22 lighthouses on the Northern Sea Route.
9. The number of meteorological stations of the Russian Federation in the Arctic exceeded half of the level of the USSR. RIA News.
10. Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation Federal Agency for Sea and River Transport. (Rosmorrechflot) List of MSCC and MSPC.
11. The US Coast Guard has published a list of icebreakers by country (illustration).
12. Byers M. Legal Status of the Northwest Passage and Canada’s Arctic Sovereignty: Past, Present, Desirable Future. Archival copy dated March 13, 2018 at the Wayback Machine // Bulletin of Moscow State University. – No. 2. – M., 2011. – S. 97–98. – (Ser. 25. International relations and world politics).
13. Northern Sea Route – cargo turnover, development prospects and ports on the map.
14. SMP. Suez. Northwest passage. Dmitry_v_ch_l.
15. How Ottawa abandoned our only Arctic port.

Reprinted from

By Editor