During the Soviet era, the development of the NSR was framed in terms of a centrally planned economic system and national security. In 1991, when market principles were introduced to the Soviet system for the first time, the administrative landscape in the NSR changed dramatically. Today three levels of government-federal, regional and state-owned enterprise-all play a role in the administration of the NSR. It must be borne in mind that this is simply Russia's unique form of administration. At the federal government level alone, several agencies are involved, including the Administration of the Northern Sea Route, the Marine Administration of Ports and the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI). State-owned enterprises such as shipping companies are managed by a State Representative. The government is responsible for providing support for a wide range of duties, such as maintaining safety through information on ice and weather conditions, maintenance of nuclear-powered icebreakers and financial support for maintenance of river shipping routes linked to the NSR. Specifically, the Administration of the Northern Sea Route is responsible for issuing regulations related to the NSR, proposing safety policy, policy regarding the shipment of goods for private companies, instructions to and approval of icebreaker operations, the construction and maintenance of icebreakers, and permission to foreign ships to use the NSR. The Marine Administration of Ports is responsible for the management of state-owned infrastructure such as bridges, tugboats, icebreakers, piloting services and radio communications. AARI gathers data on ice conditions and publishes ice maps.
Each regional government is responsible for the implementation and upkeep of its own basic infrastructure. Although the federal government provides some financial support, responsibility for the infrastructure used in river traffic near the NSR coast falls on the regional authorities. Much of this infrastructure spending is conducted in the form of financing to private-sector companies operating shipping or port-terminal management businesses. Regional governments such as the Sakha Republic, the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug and the Krasnoyarsk Kray are negotiating with the federal government to have transit levies in the NSR returned to them as a payment for the upkeep of NSR infrastructure. Since 1991, the role of these regional governments in the maintenance of the NSR has increased dramatically. Private-sector shipping companies have established independent businesses and are conducting commercial shipping on the NSR. Presently five such companies are involved in the NSR, of which two are major players: The Murmansk Shipping Company (MSC), operating out of Murmansk, and the Far East Shipping Company (FESCO), based in Vladivostok. The shares of these companies are partly government-owned, and as described above a State Representative is assigned from the federal government to ensure that the wishes of the Ministry of Merchant Marine are followed. Although icebreakers are the property of the federal government, in practice their operation is entrusted to the private shipping companies. MSC, which handles the lion's share of NSR icebreaker operations, began operating nuclear-powered icebreakers under an agreement with the federal government in 1993. Although the federal government is responsible for funding the maintenance of these craft, it is behind in its payments. Of a 200 million-ruble payment due in 1998, it is reported that the federal government disbursed only 43 million rubles, leaving MSC to replace a US$40 million shortfall. The control of ship routes on the NSR is the responsibility of the MOH. This organization indicates which routes are to be followed, dispatches escorting icebreakers, and transmits maps of ice conditions. Two MOHs are established for the NSR, one for the area east of 125｡?, stationed at Pevek, and the other for the area west of that meridian, located at Dikson. The eastern MOH is responsible for dealing with MSC, and the western MOH for dealing with FESCO, on behalf of the Administration of the Northern Sea Route. A key feature of NSR support and administration since 1991 is the increasing prominence of regional governments in the management of the NSR, as they gain in power and authority at the expense of the federal government amid government organizational reform and continuing economic turmoil.