Capital costs have the most significant impact on the NSR operational costs. Improvement in icebreaking capability of the NSR vessels necessitates an increase in the main engine output and the hull weight, raising capital costs. Annual capital costs per cargo tonnage amount to $207/t for the 40BC and $72/t for the 50BC. Capital costs for the 40BC are therefore some three times those of the 50BC. Improvement in icebreaking capability of the 40BC resulted in two times higher building costs than the 50BC. It is worthwhile, then, to look closely at the relationship between capital costs and icebreaking performance. The difference in number of escort days between the 40BC and 50BC is greatest in the winter, but it is only two days and almost none in summer. Undeniably, this difference is affected by one of the assumptions of the simulation-that an icebreaker escort will be available as soon as ship speed falls to 3 knots or lower. This rather strong assumption renders it difficult to use the superior icebreaking performance of the 40BC to full advantage. If the time required to wait for an icebreaker escort is as long as a few days, the superiority of the 40BC becomes more obvious. At present, the icebreaker escort fees charged by Russia are unaffected by the number of escort days required. At present, the Russian authorities propose a flat rate and fully guaranteed icebreaker support in escorting operation. Preferably, under these escort conditions, the NSR cargo vessels would have moderate icebreaking capability and relatively high propulsion performance in open water. Moreover, if the fee for icebreaker escort could be reduced to $5/GT for the 50BC, as proposed in this simulation, the NSR transit operation with the 50BC class icebreaking bulkers could be sufficiently competitive with the operation of conventional handy-size bulk carriers through the Suez Canal route during the summer months. In terms of year-round operation, even if the NSR is used only seasonally, the cost would be about 10% higher than in the Suez Canal route with conventional handy-size bulk carriers. However, icebreaker escort is required in 70% of the NSR during the winter, and the flat rate for the escort, currently proposed by the Russian government, is unrealistic. On the other hand, in the regional routes it was seen that the 25BC could traverse the NSR virtually year-round with no icebreaker escort. For such operation without icebreaker escort, the present compulsory escort tariff is indefensible. The NSR tariff structure should be determined rationally from comprehensive studies on the NSR operations and trends in the international shipping market.
Going forward, as it focuses more keenly on attracting foreign investment, Russia may choose to provide new icebreaker fleets to cater to the needs of the international shipping market, and to implement a shipping support system that is more closely attuned to market principles. If so, the conclusions reached in these simulations point the way to a more beneficial use of the NSR.