At a press conference in Moscow arranged by the state-affiliated news agency TASS and Morflot, the Federal agency on Sea and River Transport under the Ministry of Transportation of Russia, Russia unviled its plan to build the Polar Express subsea cable, a 12,650km subsea cable along Russia’s entire Arctic coastline, from Murmansk to Vladivostok, with 6 fiber pairs and system capacity up to 104 Tbps.
The Polar Express subsea cable project is being developed by the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation, the Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport (Rosmorrechflot) and the Federal State Unitary Enterprise (FSUE) Rosmorport.
The Polar Express subsea cable project is expected to cost approximately 65 billion roubles ($889 million) and be financed exclusively by the state, as part of a state-run project to bring high-speed internet to its remote hydrocarbon-rich north after a private-led initiative stalled. Moscow is aiming to improve patchy communications and infrastructure in its far north and is developing the Northern Sea Route to become a major shipping lane.
The Polar Express cable system will be operated by Federal State Unitary Enterprise (FSUE) Morsvyazsputnik, administered by the Federal Agency of Maritime and River Transport (Rosmorrechflot). The main activity of Morsviazsputnik is the provision of Inmarsat mobile satellite communication services to legal entities and private users under the license of the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications. Morsvyazsputnik is negotiating with potential partners to ensure the Polar Express cable gets connection to existing domestic Russian and international backbone networks.
JSC “Advanced Technologies Management" (UPT) was awarded to manufacture and lay the cable. The manufacturing of the cable took place in the Arctic city of Murmansk.
According to Morsviazsputnik, the cable laying was started on August 6, 2021.
The first batch of cable, about 400 km, manufactured at the newly opened “UPT” factory, was loaded on August 5, on a cable laying vessel that can lay over 12 kilometers of cable in a day. In total, nine vessels will participate in the laying of the cable: four survey vessels, three support vessels and two cable laying Northern Wave and Yauza. The entire cable is laid with a depth of up to 1.5 meters to protect the cable from trawling and anchoring ships.
The first four kilometers of cable were laid in Teriberka in the coastal zone using horizontal drilling on the first day. The cable laying vessel began its work on laying the transarctic main underwater fiber-optic communication line Murmansk - Vladivostok of the Polar Express project in the village of Teriberka, Murmansk Region, on the banks of the Barents Sea.
The cable will cross the Barents Sea to the former military airbase of Amderma in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug where a coastal station will be built. Next stage will be to Dikson, Russia’s northernmost mainland town on the coast of the Kara Sea.
Further connection will be to the port of Tiksi in Yakutia, then to Pevek and Anadyr on the Chukotka Peninsula, into the Pacific with a land station at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and further south to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Nakhodka, before ending in Vladivostok.
The Polar Express subsea cable will be buried 1.5 meters under the seabed in order to ensure safety in the offshore section of the route. In other places, where it for geological reasons is not possible to dig into the ground, the cable will rest on the seabed protected by a single or double armor said to can resist pressure of 50 tons. This is particularly important in the shallow parts north of Siberia where water might freeze to to the bottom.
The cable laying from Teriberka towards Siberia is scheduled for 2021 to 2024, while the eastern section will be laid in the period until 2026.
The entire Polar Express subsea cable project is expected to be completed in 2026.