Is the Arctic set to become a main shipping route?

Northwest Passage routes [image credit: NASA @ Wikipedia]

Probably not, but this report loses some credibility and misleads readers when it claims: ‘But in 2014 the Nunavik became the first cargo ship to traverse the [Northwest] passage unescorted when it delivered nickel from the Canadian province of Quebec to China.’ It fails to mention the obviously important fact that Nunavik is an icebreaking bulk carrier.

Wikipedia says: ‘She is strengthened for navigation in ice according to the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) Polar Class 4, which allows year-round operation in thick first-year ice which may include old ice inclusions. Furthermore, she fulfills the requirements for ice class ICE-15 by Det Norske Veritas.’ So hardly the run-of-the-mill cargo ship that the BBC pretends it is.

Having tried to talk up the prospects of opening up this sea route, a note of caution is sounded: ‘However, some Arctic experts are not convinced that the Northwest Passage will ever be a busy commercial trade route.’ As well as unpredictable sea ice, unfavourable geography and disputed territorial claims are among the issues.

Climate change is increasingly opening up the Northwest Passage, an Arctic sea route north of the Canadian mainland, says the BBC.

Could it herald an era of more cargo shipping around the top of the world?

Back in the 19th Century there was a race to map and navigate the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean as a shortcut between the North Atlantic and North Pacific.

Explorers would take ships up Greenland’s west coast, then try to weave through Canada’s Arctic islands, before going down the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia.

The problem was that even in the summer the route was mostly blocked by impenetrable ice. On one of the best-known expeditions – that of the UK’s Sir John Franklin in 1845 – all 129 crew members perished after their two vessels got stuck.

Today, more than 170 years later, a warming Arctic means that the route is increasingly accessible for a few months each summer.

And according to some estimates, Arctic ice is retreating to the extent that the Northwest Passage could become an economically viable shipping route.

For shipping firms transporting goods from China or Japan to Europe or the east coast of the US, the passage would cut thousands of miles off journeys that currently go via the Panama or Suez canals.

The Canadian government is certainly hopeful that this will be the case. Late last month the country’s trade minister Jim Carr said that the route “will in a matter of a generation, probably be available year round”.

At the moment it is still a risky business though, with ice remaining a serious problem.

But in 2014 the Nunavik became the first cargo ship to traverse the passage unescorted when it delivered nickel from the Canadian province of Quebec to China.

Continued here.

via Tallbloke’s Talkshop

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November 3, 2018 at 04:57AM

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