Arctic's Northwest Passage beckons China
Global warming is opening sea lanes over Russia that could take weeks off shipping times to Europe. But it's hardly clear sailing.
No, staying home isn't an option. In an attempt to avoid the circuitous route from China to Europe that runs through the Indian Ocean, Suez Canal and Mediterranean Sea, the Chinese cargo ship Yong Shen operated by Cosco Group is attempting the country's first-ever commercial trip through the Arctic's Northwest Passage over Russia.
The ship set sail on Aug. 9 from Dalian in northeast China and is headed for Rotterdam. Cosco believes the journey through the Bering Strait could shave as much as two weeks off the trip, from 48 to 35 days. The problem is that even with global warming opening it up a bit, the Northwest Passage is still a dicey proposition.
For starters, it's still a relatively recent development that few have dare tried. Russian authorities have granted 372 permits this year to ships intent on sailing all or some of the passage, compared with 46 last year and only four in 2010. That's fairly minute compared with the 17,000 ships that went through the Suez Canal last year alone and still may be a bit overzealous for a stretch of sea that still hasn't quite warmed up.
"Climate change is certainly opening new Arctic shipping routes," said Cameron Dueck, a Canadian author who sailed the Northwest Passage in 2009 and shared a bit of his story with The Financial Times. "But the most common routes through the (Arctic) continue to have ice even in the warmest years, meaning shipping companies will have to be selective and opportunistic in using them."
Valentin Davydants, the captain of Russia's Atomflot fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers, told the FT he estimates that by 2021, 15 metric tons of cargo will use the full route. That's still a slow trickle compared with the 929 metric tons that went through the Suez Canal in 2011.
The Northwest Passage may become a more viable option as melting sea ice eliminates icebreakers now required under Russian rules for all journeys. For China, it also means avoiding passage to the contested South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca and pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean.
That has given China considerable interest in the chilly North. It already claims to be a "near-Arctic state" and is pushing claims in the Northern Pacific and Arctic oceans. In May, Beijing secured "permanent observer" status at the Arctic Council, a group uniting the eight countries with territory in the polar region.
If the Northwest Passage does open soon, China is sending the message that it won't just be Russia's little stowaway along the advantageous new route.
They mention 15 metric tons of cargo, and 929 metric tons, but I believe they meant to say 15 million metric tons, and 929 million metric tons.
Bottom line is this, if we screw up this planet, we darn sure don't have another one to run off to. Yet that matters very little to low information voters.
"Meanwhile the United States is getting left behind."
Because the GOP won't relent on their pursuit to control everything in the universe. Even members of the Republican Moderate are seeing that "handwriting on the wall of inevitability" regarding the damage done by the Party of NO and need to wipe-out job blockades and human suppression. You're a dead political machine, GOP... your century of exploitation needs to be buried, alive, if that's your choice but nonetheless... buried.
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