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Platonova M.D.



this article describes the Northern Sea Route as a potential transit way for drug trafficking from Asia to Russia and peculiarities of container transportation of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances through the Arctic Ocean seas   

Ключові слова:
Northern Sea Route, drug trafficking, maritime transport, cargo containers, Asia-Russia-Europe route   

The Northern Sea Route (NSR) is the shortest sea route between Europe and East Asia, in particular between the European and Far Eastern parts of Russia. It passes through four seas of the Arctic Ocean: the East Siberian Sea, the Kara Sea, the Chukchi Sea and the Laptev Sea, while from Chukotka to Vladivostok, ships cross the Bering Sea and part of the Pacific Ocean. From St. Petersburg to Vladivostok it is more than 14 kilometers along the sea route. In total, there are about 70 stops and ports on the Northern Sea Route. It is not surprising that NSR considered to be one of the most promising projects of Russia in the field of transit cargo transportation [7]. For the period from 2016 to 2030 the goal is to develop seaports in all sea basins of the way. Russia undoubtedly has the greatest interest in this area, as the maritime areas of the NSR belong to the country, but it is also seen by other states as an opportunity for international transport. Such vast sea spaces and facilities suitable for the transportation of goods have been and continue to be actively used not only by legal trade, but also by criminal elements as a channel for global drug distribution. There is no doubt that much of the global illicit drug trade is carried out via maritime vessels, as maritime transport has several advantages over other kinds: drugs are relatively easy to hide in cargo, in a container or in ship structures; the ship's crew has numerous contacts in ports, and criminal connections between them are difficult to detect. While airports, train stations are now strictly controlled, seaports still provide ample opportunity for concealing drugs in legal goods [3], if only because anyone can enter a ship when it is moored. Detecting illegal cargo hidden in containers and ships is therefore a complex task, requiring specialized police forces from several countries and complex tools and procedures. However, it is not always possible to check a ship and thousands of cargo containers. For example, the implementation of drug trafficking in watertight containers attached to the bottom of the ship, which in case of danger are remotely unhooked by equipment and go to the depths [8]. Cargo in the containers on the ship can already be protected by the ship's seal, and further physical inspection of the cargo is impossible. And of course, containers that remain empty and unlocked for some time after unloading are an opportunity to hide illicit goods in them. Checking and sealing every container, especially an empty one, is too time-consuming and expensive. Especially when we are talking about huge container ships that travel such a long distance as the Northern Sea Route. That is why containers today are increasingly being used for cross-border transportation of drugs, narcotic plants and precursors [5]. A container ship carries an average of 800-1000 containers. Every third transport is loaded with drugs, but with the help of dogs the police can control only 25% of the cargo [8]. The largest container ship today is the Korean HMM Algeciras with 23,964 TEU. On the NSR itself can already be found container ships built specifically for the route's climatic conditions, such as the 3,600 TEU Venta Maersk (Denmark), which in 2018 successfully passed the NSR from the port of Vladivostok through the Bering Strait to St. Petersburg and on to Bremerhaven (Germany) in 37 days; the Sevmorput (Russia), a nuclear-powered container ship that has a small  capacity of 1,336 TEU, but since 2020 transports cargo from PetropavlovskKamchatsky to St. Petersburg within 17 days [4]. Climate conditions of the Arctic undoubtedly create certain conditions and difficulties for the movement of ships, especially powerful container ships. When transporting cargoes along the most difficult section of the NSR, anti-ice support is extremely necessary. According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, today it is possible to navigate the NSR only 6-7 months a year, but with powerful icebreakers "Leader" it will be possible all year round [6]. Since only half of the route runs in harsh conditions, from the Kara Strait to Provideniya Bay (5610 km), it is still possible to create transshipment hubs in the ports of Murmansk and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, where ordinary ships can enter [1], which will enable to increase transportation already now. Obviously, maritime trade and transportation on the NSR has suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the difficult epidemiological situation in the countries, most ports remained open for cargo traffic, while they were inaccessible for passengers. With borders closed and air & land transport sharply curtailed by the immediate response to the spread of the coronavirus, sea carriers played an important role by providing essential supplies in short supply, so that drug trafficking by sea continued at the same level as before the pandemic [7]. For instance, the distribution of drugs by common maritime transport continues, and shipments from Asia, including China, to the European continent have increased, which is faster and cheaper to do via the NSR. To hide goods, criminals have taken advantage of the situation, such as the growing demand for goods such as gloves, masks and hand sanitizers, hoping that border controls for these types of goods will be less stringent [7]. It is clear from these observations that the NSR can be considered a potentially active drug trafficking route due to many factors. The reasons for this are the vastness of the maritime space, technical and structural characteristics of container ships, volume of cargo, which makes full customs control virtually impossible, and the few inspection and control points in ports. Moreover, the geopolitical position of the Route  plays a great role, especially the location of the western ports in St. Petersburg and Murmansk, which allow drug trafficking from Asia, such as from China, to spread further across the European continent, through the Norwegian, North Sea, Baltic, Mediterranean and Black Sea, as well as through all other possible transport routes. Accordingly, across other parts of the Atlantic Ocean to other continents.

Passi nel mondo della conoscenza. Рим, Італія.   

Посилання для цитування:

Platonova M.D.. LOGISTICAL PROSPECTS OF THE NORTHERN SEA ROUTE IN INTERNATIONAL DRUG TRAFFICKING // ''Passi nel mondo della conoscenza'' (міжнародна наукова конференція). ISBN 978-88-44040-15-1. Рим, Італія. С. 21 - 24. 2021 р. // Електронний ресурс: (дата звернення: 22.06.2024 р.)

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