INSROP is a project of unparalleled scope. This international collaborative research effort studied the vast expanse of the NSR and the peripheral seas of the Arctic Ocean, drawing on a wide range of disciplines to generate a highly respected corpus of 167 research papers and other publications of results, as well as international symposiums. At the very least, INSROP has provided a comprehensive and detailed body of research results.
It is still a little disconcerting to see Russia, for so long the very antithesis of capitalism, embracing market principles so keenly, bidding for economic growth and receptive to the will of the people. Nonetheless Russia's conversion to Western ways is far from complete. Until Russia begins to have the same understanding of a free-market economy as Western countries do, the opening of the NSR, which falls almost entirely in Russian territorial waters, will remain an undertaking for another time.
The Arctic Ocean is one of the most closely watched bodies of water on earth. Researchers constantly monitor its processes of circulation and deep-water current generation and the impact of global warming. The Arctic Ocean is also rich in natural resources, and it is only a matter of time before the world becomes dependent on them in various senses.
Once thought of as a limitless sea, the Arctic Ocean is today recognized to have limits that are very real indeed. The people of the 21st century must be aware that we live in a planetary ecosystem with limits, and that the earth's waters and oceans are a precious and irreplaceable part of that system.
Another result of INSROP is the boost it gave to Japan's international scientific cooperation activities. Originally formed as a tripartite partnership of Japan, Norway and Russia, by the time INSROP wrapped up it had benefited from the contributions of 390 scientists from 14 countries worldwide. International collaborative projects like these are two parts international diplomacy and one part private-sector diplomacy; INSROP encouraged people from widely divergent viewpoints to sit down and examine various issues together, bolstering teamwork by recognizing and accepting the differences in perception between them. Despite the pressures of the voyage, the extreme environment and occasional communication breakdown, the team members established relationships of trust, both among themselves and with the crew. The fruits of this "private-sector diplomacy" may well be as valuable as the research results themselves.
INSROP's inquiry into the opening of the NSR has brought an array of questions and issues to light. Clearly the NSR is not ready for immediate use as a commercial sea lane. Further experimental voyages and investigations are needed to confirm the conditions found so far, and the results of existing efforts need to be collated to clarify various scenarios and the obstacles to commercial operation.
To establish the NSR as a permanent and viable commercial sea route, the following conditions must be satisfied.
1) Sufficient and dependable hydrographical data of sea routes are available and in use.
2) Meteorological and oceanographic data and statistics on the sea route and its periphery are available in real time.
3) Both hardware- and software-based navigational support systems are established.
4) Emergency refuge and rescue support systems are established.
5) Ships are designed and constructed to assure safe navigation in the seas expected to be navigated.
6) Appropriate navigational methods are established for the seas expected to be navigated.
7) Ports along the NSR are properly outfitted to serve as international ports.