17 June 2011, 16:48

All roads lead to the Arctic

All roads lead to the Arctic

Nature may help people to develop the northern territories of the planet. Owing to climate change the Arctic might become a key infrastructural route in the world. An international conference on “Innovation and Security Cooperation in the Euro-Arctic Zone” that ended in the Norwegian city of Kirkenes focused on these emerging opportunities.

Nature may help people to develop the northern territories of the planet. Owing to climate change the Arctic might become a key infrastructural route in the world. An international conference on “Innovation and Security Cooperation in the Euro-Arctic Zone” that ended in the Norwegian city of Kirkenes focused on these emerging opportunities.

According to scientists, global warming is beneficial for Russia in a number of ways. This is largely linked to the Arctic. Climate change is alternating logistics patters. With the melting of ice in the north, new shipping routes will appear. This concerns first and foremost the northern shipping route, the shortest route between the European territory of Russia and the Far East. The possible cargo transport along this route is estimated at 8-12 million tons a year.

Both Russia and Norway are keen on the development of the northern shipping route, which will be an advantageous alternative to the overloaded route through the Suez Canal. Two years ago, 70 thousand tons of iron ore were shipped for the first time to China from Kirkenes through the northern route. Norway’s Tschudi Shipping Company was the first to do this. It took only 18 days to deliver the shipment, two-times less than if the cargo were shipped through the Suez Canal. This made it possible for the company to save 300 thousand U.S. dollar-worth fuel.

This was possible owing to the cooperation with the “Rosatomflot”, a Russian company engaged in the exploitation and servicing the nuclear-powered civilian fleet. Tschudi Shipping signed a contract with the “Rosatomflot”, and under which the nuclear-powered icebreaker “50 Let Pobedy” escorted the Norwegian ship.

The development of technologies, the growing price of raw materials and the growing market in China are several factors prompt specialists to think of new transport capabilities, says a participant of the conference, representative of Tschudi Shipping Company, Henrik Falck.

“What are the challenges facing us in the near future? Cost of shipping, availability of ice-going ships, price of fuel and insurance fees are among the challenges that will have an impact on the development in this area. Another important aspect is piracy, which is a key problem off the African coast. One can say an awful a lot about Russia, but for sure, there are no pirates in the country,” Henrik Falck said.

Russia’s largest shipping company, “Sovkomflot” is planning to sail 15 ships along the northern route this year. The most suitable time for navigation is summer. However, ships can sail throughout the year if they are escorted by icebreakers. Moreover, the ice-class ships such as Arc 7 and Arc 6 are capable of sailing without the assistance of icebreakers.

At present, test journeys are being carried out. There is a need to test logistic and economic feasibilities of northern routes and map out a national strategy on the Arctic. This may trigger new disputes, including whether the northern route is a national or international route. In fact, it’s inexpedient to dispute over the 1982 UN Convention on Marine Law that defines 12-mile territorial waters as an economic zone, while, 200-mile as a controlled zone but free for navigation. However, a specific country enjoys the exclusive right to use mineral and bio-resources in the 200-mile zone.    

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