Facing European Sanctions, Russian Redirects Grain and Coal to Asian Customers

“As Europe no longer buys Russian coal and new markets in Asia take over, the export hub in Murmansk manifest itself as the world’s longest detour.”

In the face of sanctions and economic isolation from Europe, Russia’s longtime export hub in Murmansk has become, at least for now, an unnecessary and out-of-the-way detour for Russian commodities being shipped abroad, especially to Asia. According to the excerpted article in the Norway-based The Barents Observer, Russia is increasing its exports to Asia on the northbound Siberian rivers to the Northern Sea Route. Grain barges have successfully shipped north on the Lena River to the Northern Sea Route to China at substantial savings over rail. Coal will now move by rail from the Siberian coal fields to the river port of Krasnoyarsk and by barge on the north flowing Yenesei River to the Arctic Circle port region and then be loaded onto bulk carriers for China and India. Exploiting these additional routes will be more cost effective, quicker, and sanction-free, while providing Russia access to friendly markets and much needed export revenue.


Thomas Nilsen, “Asia-bound coal finds Siberian shortcut route, avoiding Murmansk,”

The Barents Observer (independent Norwegian news site in Russian and English currently blocked in Russia), 3 April 2023. https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/industry-and-energy/2023/04/asia-bound-coal-finds-siberia-shortcut-route-avoiding-murmansk

As Europe no longer buys Russian coal and new markets in Asia take over, the export hub in Murmansk manifest itself as the world’s longest detour. The first test batch with 30,000 tons of coal from Kuzbass will be shipped via the Yenisei River and Northern Sea Route when ice is gone and the waterways open for navigation later this year.

“It is planned to organize an experimental shipping in 2023 […] from Kuzbass with transshipment in Krasnoyarsk and Lesosibirsk. In Ust-Port region, the coal will be reloaded to ships and sent to China,” stated head of the Yenisey inland waterways, Leonid Fedorov.

The coal will be sent by rail to Lososibirsk and Krasnoyarsk where it will be loaded on barges and shipped north the Yenisey River to Ust-Port inside the Arctic Circle. A larger bulk carrier will take over the cargo and sail to the outlet of the river and further east along the Northern Sea Route towards Asia. About half of all Russian coal comes from the Kuzbass region southeast of Krasnoyarsk.Over the last decade, export via Murmansk has increased from about 9,5 million tons in 2010 to 16,2 million tons in 2019. After Putin’s full-scale military attack on Ukraine last year, the European Union decided to ban Russian coal, and export from the ice-free port on the coast to the Barents Sea is now shipped via the Suez channel to Asia, for the most part to India and China. If increasing to large volume, export via the Yenisey River and the Northern Sea Route will be substantially shorter than the route via Murmansk.