News / Europe

As North Pole Ice Melts, More Ships Take Arctic Shortcut

As North Pole Ice Melts, More Ships Take Arctic Shortcuti
X
October 04, 2013 8:11 PM
While many people are concerned about the negative effects of global warming, it's also creating benefits in some cases. By the end of September, the ice at the North Pole had melted to a level well below the average for the last 25 years. VOA's James Brooke reports from the Russian Arctic that as the ice retreats, ships have begun to fill the gap.
James Brooke
For centuries, polar bears have enjoyed Arctic waters in isolation. But now, they are getting company in the summer.

Last summer, China sent its first icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, over the top of Russia, from Shanghai to Iceland.

This summer, the Yong Sheng, a freighter operated by China's COSCO shipping company, became the first Chinese merchant vessel to take the shortcut. It sailed from Shanghai to Rotterdam, cutting two weeks off the usual route, through Egypt’s Suez Canal.

Satellite photos by the U.S. space agency, NASA, show that the white Arctic ice around the North Pole shrinks every summer. It is replaced by more and more open water, which appears black in the photos.

Even Russian President Vladimir Putin agrees with the American scientists.

"It is absolutely clear now that the climate is changing. Everyone is talking about this,” he told an Arctic Forum held here recently. “It is clear now that the northern latitudes can be open for shipping for 100 days or perhaps 150 days, and that new regions are opening up for economic activity."

  • Salekhard, population 45,000, is the world's only city that straddles the Arctic Circle. This roadside monument marks this line that crossses the tundra. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • Modern Salekhard has been built by Russia’ state gas giant Gazprom as a center for one of the richest oil and gas regions in the world. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • Bright colors seek to cheer up residents in a city where snow falls in September and there are only two hours of daylight each day during December. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • There as many as half a million reindeer in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region, the world center for raising reindeer. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • Nenets people cherish their traditions, which have survived 70 years of Soviet communism and two decades of Russian consumerism. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • Nenets carve souvenirs from walrus tusks. Tourism is limited because Russian authorities now demand additional permits to visit the city, a three hour flight from Moscow. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • Cossacks founded the city in 1598 on the eastern bank of it the River Ob, which flows north to the Arctic. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • Brightly colored tower beckons are seen in Salekhard. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • The road to the airport is decorated with static displays of airplanes and helicopters that pioneered polar aviation in the 20th century. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • An old locomotive is a reminder of the period, from the 1930s to 1950s, when Salekhard was a gulag town. Thousands of prisoners died constructing what later became known as “The Railroad of Death”. (V. Undritz for VOA)

Trans-Arctic trade

While Russia invests in more icebreakers, Arctic experts gathered at the forum say they see growing opportunities for trade.

Felix Tschudi, chairman of a Norwegian shipping company, has shipped iron ore from northern Norway to China.

“We believe that the potential of the Northern Sea Route is large,” said Tschudi, a promoter of the route. “It will not be like an explosion. In 2010, there were four ships using the transit route. In 2011, there were 34. And in 2012 there were 46. This year we expect around 50 ships.”

Lawson Brigham was the captain of a United States Coast Guard icebreaker based in Alaska.

"Really, we're looking at a seasonal supplement to the Suez Canal, carrying natural resources,” he said. “We're not going to retool the global container ship traffic.”

Environmental concerns

Indigenous leaders and environmentalists worry about the potential for an oil spill in the fragile environment of the high north.

Aqqaluk Lynge, from Greenland, is chairman of the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

“You cannot use the Arctic as a laboratory. It's not a laboratory.  The Arctic Ocean is not the last frontier. It's our home. People have to remember that people live there,” he said at the conference. “We are very concerned about the tourist liners' travel routes up to east Greenland and other parts of Greenland because there's simply no rescue possibility in those areas.”

But his neighbor Olafur Grimsson, the president of Iceland, welcomes Chinese ships.

He told forum attendees: "Next month the CEO of COSCO, the largest shipping company in China, will explain at the new Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik how China is preparing for a new era in global shipping when the melting of the Arctic sea-ice will connect Asia in a new way to America and Europe.”

What may be bad for polar bears, may be good for shipping between China and Europe.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Nakame, TKO
October 05, 2013 8:16 PM
Those ships going to Arctic waters should be well designed against brittle fracture, because the steels of ships become brittle in a low tempreture.
The ships may be break without significant force, when brittle fracture happend.

As you know, the cost of steel become higher and the cost of building ships higher. Only steel makers can get benefit from Arctic ocean going ships project.


by: riano baggy from: indonesia
October 05, 2013 6:34 AM
maybe few years ago we not use icebreaker vessel to cross arctic, it good for commercial vessels BUT DANGEROUS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL and their HABITAT Now depend ourselves for economic for a few moment or for long time for our next generations.


by: Jim Thompson from: Oregon
October 05, 2013 1:34 AM
Didn't you guys get the notification about the ships stuck in the ice? http://guardianlv.com/2013/09/arctic-ice-cap-growing-at-tremendous-rate/ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2415191/And-global-COOLING-Return-Arctic-ice-cap-grows-29-year.html

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid