Currently, tourists tend to choose to travel to Iceland or Norway in order to get a taste of the Arctic. The establishment of a special customs zone in Russia has the possibility to change that, according to Alexander Kirilov, director of the Russian Arctic National Park.
In a statement issued by the Natural Resources Ministry, the national park director says that, at the moment, logistical planning in the area was hampering developments. Kirilov said that international cruise ships currently have to sail to the far north city of Murmansk to arrange customs clearance before they proceed to the Russian Arctic. He argued that meant 3 days of extra sailing and millions of losses.
According to the press statement, the customs zone will be aimed at attracting the thousands of cruisers that visit the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. Kirilov proposes the checkpoint to be established on Alexandria island (the largest in Franz Josef Land archipelago).
Over the last few years, the number of cruise ships visiting Svalbard has increased. Kirilov, therefore, proposes to include visa-free traveling to Russia's far north Franz Josef Land island as a point of priority in the development strategy for the Russian Arctic.
He also wants the national park to expand and include Victoria Island, the 10.8km2 piece of land situated between Franz Josef Land and Svalbard.
The new Russian strategy is aimed at the period until 2035.