According to news reports, Russia is keeping a watch on a U.S. Coast Guard Ship traversing the Northern Sea Route.
It began when ‘Healy’, a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, arrived in the East Siberian Sea and sailed near Russia’s Northern Sea Route.
The U.S. ship is evidently on a science expedition, said to last a month and is headed to service oceanographic equipment in the region. However, a Russian government-owned survey ship called Akademik Nemchinov has been following Healy.
The Russian vessel left East Siberian Sea’s Pevek Port on 1st September 2023; since then, it has kept a close watch on Healy.
The U.S. Coast Guard has not responded to queries about the Russian vessel. It is undoubtedly not a part of its science expedition, and experts suggest that the Russian Ship is navigating into the U.S. Coast Guard Ship’s way to keep an eye on its activities in the region.
Hervé Baudu, Chief Professor of Maritime Education at the French Maritime Academy, shares this view along with arctic researcher Rebecca Pincus, who heads the Polar Institute at Wilson Center.
They highlight that being a state ship, Healy is not required to take permission for transit in the Northern Sea Route. They also mentioned that Russian requirements for commercial ships to get a permit for travelling along this route are not based on international law.
“The NSR regulations are not derived from international regulations. It is simply a custom,” he stated.
Per the International Law of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Healy can cross the route without prior authorisation from Moscow, as other state vessels have done in the past, such as the French Navy Vessel Rhone, which crossed the route in Sept 2018.
He says we will see how Moscow reacts, although it cannot prevent the U.S. icebreaker from going its way.
The case could be different if the U.S. ship were to engage in oceanographic survey work in Russia EEZ, which would require authorisation from Moscow.
Another problem could arise if the ship were to transit using the straits between islands of the East Siberian Sea and along the Northern Sea Route that Russia treats as its internal waters. It also passed a law against using these routes by military ships.
Using these routes would imply conducting Freedom Of Navigation Operations as the U.S. regularly conducts in the Straits of Taiwan, Baudu added.
Thus, as long as Healy sails north of the islands, it is okay since Russia’s claims of internal water apply between the islands and the mainland.
References: high north news, arctic today
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