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

    Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Video Canine Reading Buddies Help Students With Literacy

    Idea behind reading program is that sharing book with nonjudgmental companion boosts students' confidence and helps instill love of reading

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora