The route passes through a series of straits that form either between islands and the continent or between islands (Figure 4.2-1). Many of these straits are both narrow and shallow, forming a significant geographical constraint to navigation along the NSR. The following is a list of the major straits and their important characteristics.
* Yugorskiy Shar Strait
Yugorskiy Shar Strait is located along the south coast of Vaygach Island and is the southernmost entrance from the Barents Sea to the Kara Sea. The strait is 21NM (nautical mile) in length and 5.5NM wide at its narrowest, with depths ranging from 13-15m in the west to 16-30m in the east.
* Kara Gate Strait
Forming the gap between Novaya Zemlya and Vaygachi Island, the Kara Gate Strait is the main shipping strait between the Barents and Kara Seas. The 18NM-long strait has a minimum depth of 21m. A traffic separation scheme is in place in this narrow shipping lane.
* Vilkitskiy Strait
This strait separates Severnaya Zemlya from the northernmost extremity of the Eurasian continent, Cape Chelyuskin. Although ships of any size and draft can make passage, the eastern and western approaches to this strait can be clogged with ice fields, depending on the wind direction. When these conditions prevail, icebreaker escort can often be difficult.
* Shokalskiy Strait
Shokalskiy Strait is located in Severnaya Zemlya, north of the Vilkitskiy Strait. The strait, 80NM long and 10NM wide at its narrowest point, has a minimum depth of 37m. The width and depth do not pose a limiting factor for any ship. However, ice conditions in this strait are generally less favorable than in the Vilkitskiy strait.
* Dmitry Laptev Strait
This strait is the southernmost passage between the New Siberian Islands and the mainland, linking the Laptev and East Siberian Seas. It is 63NM long and 30NM wide. The strait has depths of 12-15m in a band of 14-18NM along the axis, oriented east-west. The eastern approach, however, has shallow water with less than 10m depths, restricting traffic to ships with less than 6.7m draft.