As scientists and politicians study and debate the issue of climate change and what to do about it, the shipping industry, mining industry, and oil and gas industries are celebrating a possible new trade route opening between the Far East and the West. The icy waters of the Arctic are thawing, opening the waters to ships passing from China north of Russia to the Bering Strait. According to predictions by meteorologists studying climate change, the Arctic’s cover of ice in the summer has dropped by 40 percent.
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Scientists and shipping professionals are anxiously watching the passage of Cosco’s Yong Sheng vessel, which sailed from China towards the Bering Strait through these waters, dubbed the “Golden Waterway.” Her voyage is 3,380 miles long and expected to take 35 days, which is two weeks faster than the same cargo would take to reach its destination via the Suez canal. The typical cargo ships 12-15 days faster by this Northern Sea Route.
Though this opens up the possibility for huge fuel savings and lower priced products to China’s major trade partners in Europe and North America, it isn’t without peril. Most vessels will encounter icebergs and slabs of packed ice, and require icebreaker escorts to get them through safely. Also, the port and pier infrastructure in that area is not yet sufficient to support large volumes of ship traffic.
Iceland is making plans to build a port to service such ships, which German entrepreneurs will finance. Stornoway Port Authority in Scotland has plans to expand their services, constructing a port for Arctic faring ships to refuel and deploy smaller cargo ships carrying goods to London, Liverpool, Le Havre, and Rotterdam.
Together with the expanded Panama Canal, set for completion in 2015, the Northern Sea Route could drop the time it takes to ship goods from China to the U.S. by 30 percent. Experts expect that 5 to 15 percent of all Chinese trade will pass through this route by the end of 2020. [/show_to]