Centre for International Law

Past Event – Russia’s Coastal State Jurisdiction over the Arctic Northern Sea Route

21 February 2017 | CIL Seminar Series


The Arctic has been in the international spotlight for a little more than a decade. Melting sea ice, technological developments and the interests of States all stimulate human activity in the Arctic, including shipping. The opening of new shipping lanes in this region will, sooner or later, diversify the patterns of global commercial trade.

The Northern Sea Route (NSR), located exclusively in Russian Arctic maritime zones, presents the highest potential for trans-Arctic shipping. Foreign navigation through the NSR is subject to a special legal regime, established unilaterally by the coastal State. Russian domestic legislation stipulates that the navigation on the NSR—historically formed national transport communication of the Russian Federation in the Arctic—shall be carried out in accordance with international law.

The relevant rules of international law can be found in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Many of Russian legal requirements, affecting access to and navigation on the NSR, exceed the extent of coastal State jurisdiction under general law of the sea. UNCLOS, however, includes one important lex specialis—Article 234. This provision, a product of essentially private negotiations held in the 1970s among Canada, the USA and the USSR, leaves exceptionally wide latitude to a coastal State within ice-covered areas.

During the seminar, Jan Jakub Solski confronted Russia’s practice in regulating shipping on the NSR with the rules of the law of the sea. The discussion was primarily based on his PhD research, in which he argues that State practice will play a cardinal role for the clarification of relevant international law.


Download Mr Solski’s presentation in PDF format.

About the Speaker

Jan Jakub Solski is a PhD Research Fellow at the K.G. Jebsen Centre for the Law of the Sea, University of Tromsø – the Arctic University of Norway. Jan holds academic degrees from universities in Poland and Norway: a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Russian and English Philology from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań; a Master’s in Law from the European School of Law and Administration in Warsaw; and a Master of Laws in the Law of the Sea from University in Tromsø. Jan’s research includes the law of the sea, the legal regime of the Arctic, Russia and Russian law, and the Northern Sea Route. In his PhD research, Jan focuses on the practice of Russia in regulating navigation on the Northern Sea Route. The working title of his PhD thesis is “Russian coastal state jurisdiction over commercial vessels navigating the Northern Sea Route”. Jan is currently a research fellow at the Centre for International Law.