This master thesis marks the culmination of my academic journey in Maritime Law at the University of Oslo, presented in its entirety as it was submitted in December 2023. Current work explores the legal complexities surrounding the Northern Sea Route (NSR) against the backdrop of increased accessibility to Arctic regions, and the evolving dynamics of international shipping.

The NSR, positioned along the Russian Federation's coastline, is gradually becoming a focal point for maritime activities, presenting both opportunities and challenges. The region's changing ice conditions, particularly the substantial decline in sea ice, have transformed the NSR into a potentially viable year-round shipping route between major ports in Asia and Northern Europe. This evolving maritime landscape raises critical questions regarding the legal framework governing the NSR as a whole, and the navigational rights and freedoms of foreign merchant ships in particular, especially in the context of Russia's claims and regulatory practices.

The primary aim of this thesis is to dissect the intricate international and national legal dimensions surrounding the NSR, with a focus on the divergent perspectives presented in Russian and international academic literature. The pivotal issues examined include the interpretation of relevant provisions in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) with a specific emphasis on Coastal State legislative and enforcement jurisdiction, Russia's legal justifications for its authority over the NSR, and the implications of its domestic legislation on international maritime law in general, and the navigational rights and freedoms of foreign merchant ships in particular.

As global shipping companies increasingly look to the NSR as a potentially cost-effective alternative to traditional routes, understanding the legal challenges and uncertainties becomes paramount. The thesis critically evaluates whether Russia's legal position can be justified within the framework of UNCLOS, addressing concerns of excessiveness, discrimination, and compatibility with the needs of international shipping.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the University of Oslo for providing the academic environment and resources essential for the successful completion of this thesis. Special acknowledgment is due to my academic supervisor, Alla Pozdnakova, for her invaluable guidance and insights that enriched the research and writing process.

Artjoms Daskevics, January 2024.