The Arctic Sea Bridge, also known simply as the Arctic Bridge, is a seasonal sea route nearly 6,700 kilometres long (3,600 nautical miles) that links Canada with Russia. The route is not open year-round, as is it covered in ice for a large part of the year. The route is accessible for freight when the Arctic ice has retreated in the summer months. As such, it is a seasonal route that operates for a window of only a few months every year. At present, this window of access lasts between three and four months, and is unavailable for the remainder of the year. The two ports linked by the route are Murmansk (Russia) and Port of Churchill, Manitoba (Canada), which is located on Hudson Bay.
The two ports connected by the sea route are highly remote. Port of Churchill is a large port on the northeastern coast of Hudson Bay, which lacks permanents roads to connect it to other parts of the country. Rail is the only transport option available for freight, and as such it is the northernmost station of the Hudson Bay Railway. Much of the grain grown in the area is exported to European markets through this port.
The port in Murmansk, Russia is located on Kola Bay. The port is connected to Saint Petersburg and the rest of the country by the Murmansk Railway. After reaching Saint Petersburg, freight is then exported to European markets. Unlike Canada's port, however, the port in Murmansk is connected to the rest of the country by permanent roads, namely the M18 Kola Motorway.
Concept and History
The idea of a northern passage that would greatly benefit both nations was discussed years prior to its construction. In the early 1990s, the Canadian government proposed the concept in its current form, referring to it as the "Arctic Bridge." According to estimates, it would have cut costs significantly if properly utilized. In 1997 the port was leased to OmniTRAX, one of the biggest rail operators in North America. OmniTRAX had developed the Canadian port and negotiated with Russia and the Murmansk Shipping Company in 2004. After reaching an agreement, the ports were synchronized and the first shipment from Murmansk to Port of Churchill, which was containers of fertilizer, arrived on October 17, 2007.
The next year approximately 18,000 tonnes of Russian fertilizer was exported to Canada via the Arctic Bridge, while the Canadians sent 621,000 tonnes of grain to Saint Petersburg via the port in Murmansk.
One major setbacks experiences by the ports is landing shipments at the port for export. Even though the port authorities are able to export material, the transportation companies have difficulties bringing bringing materials to the actual port. OmniTRAX had great difficulty bringing shipments, and later sold the port to a Saudi corporation, G3 Global Grain Group, in 2015, who then initiated talks with the Missinippi Rail Consortium to auction the route and port to a consortium of the Manitoba First Nations.