New Russian legislative approaches and the applicable navigational rights and freedoms within the Northern Sea Route

Dr Jan Solski1

1K. G. Jebsen Centre For The Law Of The Sea, Tromso, Norway

The regulation of foreign navigation in the Northern Sea Route (NSR) has been dominated by the rules of international law applicable to merchant ships only. Neither the domestic set of rules of navigation on the NSR, based on Article 234 of the UNCLOS nor the Polar Code applies to State-owned vessels. While the application of Article 234 has so far let Russia evade discussion on the navigational rights, one can expect increasing spotlight on this issue.

In response to the recent crossing of the NSR by a French warship, as well as the voices from the United States indicating similar plans, Russia has signaled the intention to adopt more stringent rules for passage of warships, potentially including the requirement of prior notification and pilotage.

The aim of the paper is twofold. First, examine the navigational rights as applicable in the NSR. As such, the paper will discuss historical State practice and relevant international law to demonstrate among other things that the enclosure with straight baselines preserved innocent passage in all Russian Arctic straits. Second, examine the international legality of prior notification and pilotage in the context of the applicable navigational rights on the NSR.


Jan Solski is a Postdoc Fellow at the K.G. Jebsen Centre for the Law of the Sea, UiT – the Arctic University of Norway. In April 2019, Jan defended Ph.D. thesis entitled “Russian Coastal State Jurisdiction over Commercial Vessels Navigating through the Northern Sea Route”. Jan holds academic degrees from Poland and Norway. He spent time as a visiting fellow at the Norwegian University Centre in St. Petersburg, as well as the Centre for International Law at the National University of Singapore. He presented research in Australia, Canada, Finland, Norway, Poland, Russia, Singapore, and published in academic and popular journals.

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