Centuries ago, the White Sea opened the way to the ocean for the local Pomor people. Arkhangelsk became Russia's window to Europe. It was in Arkhangelsk that, by order of Peter the Great, the first shipyard was established, and the sails of Russia's first naval and merchant ships were unfurled. The history of the growth of northern navigation is tightly interwoven with the history of Russia as a whole.
The Belomorsk-Murmansk Regular Shipping Line Partnership, out of which the Northern Shipping Company was born, was established in May of 1870. By 1896 the fleet had grown to consist of 10 English-built ships. A regular service to Novaya Zemlya was initiated, and a line was opened in the settlement of Pechora with a stop at Mezen. As of 1908 ships began traveling to St. Petersburg, with stops at ports in Norway. Following the Civil War and Intervention the overall tonnage of the fleet registered with the Arkhangelsk Seaport came to almost 14,000 gross registered tonnes. In August 1921, the steamship Subbotnik set sail on the first international journey following the conflict, to the ports of Norway, Germany and Estonia (under the command of V.I. Voronin).
In July 1922 the State Merchant Marine Fleet was formed, consisting of 4 steamships, including the Severni. By 1928 the shipping line already possessed 28 ships, including 6 new freight steamships built in Russia. The systematic establishment of new northern sea routes went hand-in-hand with the rapid growth of export-import shipping.
During the years of the Great Patriotic War the shipping line participated in convoy operations in the North Atlantic theatre, losing 13 ships in the conflict.
Following the war, due to a deficit of tonnage, there was a period of shipping by tug-and-lighter. But already towards the end of the 1950, the fleet began to be replenished with steamships of Polish and Finnish construction, and then motorized ships of the type Volgoles, and in the mid-70's with specialized ships of the type Nikolay Novikov, Igor Grabar and Pioner Moskvy.
During this period of intensive fleet refurbishment, the fleet's make-up reached 130 transportation units. In addition to this, among its numbers were 4 passenger ships, and a powerful dredging fleet. Against the backdrop of the rapid development of the Timan-Pechora region, ships possessing ice classification began delivering freight for geologists (motor vehicles, drilling equipment, etc) through the fast ice of Vangurey and Kharasavey. A once-yearly service was established to the Antarctica ice-shelf. The timber-transport fleet made a definitive cross-over to the new technology of transporting timber in packets on specialized ships. Ships of the line first began shipping large-diameter pipe from Europe to the mouth of the Ob for the construction of a major gas pipeline. As of 1978 the port of Arkhangelsk has provided year-round navigation. By the end of the 1980's the Northern Shipping Company had become a major multi-profiled enterprise, occupying by defined parameters the fifth or sixth place among analogous companies in the Soviet Union.
On December 23, 1992 the government-owned shipping line was re-established as an open joint-stock company.