News / Europe

Global Warming Gives Boost to Commercial Cargo Business

Northern sea route vs southern sea route
Northern sea route vs southern sea route
James Brooke

For centuries, European explorers dreamed of sailing over the top of Russia to Asia. Now, climate change is melting enough Arctic ice to make this northern route a reality.

On Monday, a ship loaded with Norwegian iron ore is expected to dock in Qingdao, China, marking the first passage of a commercial cargo ship from Europe to Asia through the Arctic waters. The trip sliced 15 days and more than 8,000 kilometers off the conventional route, through the Suez Canal and past the Horn of Africa.

In past centuries, scores of Arctic adventurers died trying to make through this passage. This time, climate change made the difference.

According to the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center, ice in the Arctic this summer shrank to its third lowest level on record. With summer ice running in recent years at 40 percent below the historical average, the Colorado scientists predict that by 2030, the North Pole will be a blue sea by late summer.

This change resulted in smooth sailing for the Norwegian bulk carrier, Nordic Barents. On September 4, the ship left Kirkenes, on Norway's northern tip - and headed east. Christian Bonfils, managing director of the Nordic Bulk Carriers, a Danish ship operator, said his ship's captain found open water 85 percent of the way:  

"If there is a lot of ice, you cannot go full speed," said Christian Bonfils. "But with the ice we saw and experienced, we managed to go full speed almost all way."  

In addition to saving on fuel, labor, and shipping time, the shippers did not have to pay for Suez Canal passage fees and anti-piracy insurance surcharges. Factoring the cost of Arctic insurance and an escort by a Russian ice breaker, he said his company saved thousands of dollars.

'"If we can start to use the Northern Sea Route every year, we will get a double winter season for our ships, because we can get the ice premium in summer time," he said. "The same goes for the Russians, they will be able to employ their ice breakers in the summer season."

Rune Rafaelsen runs a development agency in Kerkenes:

Last year, he said,  iron ore demand from Chinese steel mills stretched around the world to revive production at a shuttered iron mine in his hometown. He predicts that the northern sea route will breathe new life into northern Norwegian ports. Speaking at an Arctic conference here, he predicted regular, late summer convoys of ships from Europe to Asia.

"They went directly to China and it went much faster than they expected," said Rune Rafaelsen.

Russia and Norway, once cold war enemies, are moving fast to lower transportation and investment barriers in the Arctic.

Last week, the two countries signed a treaty resolving a long-standing Arctic ocean territorial dispute. Now, the two countries are negotiating visa-free travel for  northern residents. This week, Russian officials announced construction of 10 maritime search-and-rescue stations along the 6,400-kilometer route from Murmansk to the Bering Strait.

But environmentalists warn of pollution from wrecks and spills in a still treacherous part of the world.

Bill Eichbaum, marine and arctic policy expert for the World Wildlife Fund, traveled from the United States to speak at the Arctic conference in Moscow:

"The environmental concerns are great," said Bill Eichbaum. "There is very little search and rescue.  There is very little spill control. Navigation and charting are not as extensive as in more heavily traveled areas."

From the Russian side, Nikita Ovsyanikov, deputy director of a Russian wildlife reserve on Wrangel Island, worries about the increase in shipping. Located near the top of the Bering Strait, Wrangel is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a major breeding ground for polar bears.

"There is always some probability of crash, of ship wreck, oil spill, if it is a tanker," said Nikita Ovsyanikov. "So there is always certainly a risk."

But the message from the Arctic conference was clear: Thanks to global warming, the era of commercial exploitation of the Arctic may only be beginning.

You May Like

China Announces Corruption Probe into Senior Ex-Leader

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, being probed for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid