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I think humanity should work on ice coming back to it's normal size, instead of opening new shipping lanes. It will only contribute to have even less ice. We need that ice, we need the trees, we need the water, we need the earth.

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Discussion Starter · #42 ·
Leaders need to show more 'statesmanship' on Arctic issues: Expert
25 October 2010
Canwest News Service

OTTAWA - A provocative report by a leading British expert on polar issues says Canada and the other nations with Arctic Ocean coastlines have shown a lack of "global statesmanship" in managing the profound changes now occurring in the North.

University of Cambridge professor Paul Berkman, head of the Arctic Ocean Geopolitics Program at the Scott Polar Research Institute, concludes in his 132-page report on the security challenges facing the region that high-level, peace-oriented diplomatic vision is the "missing ingredient" needed to ensure the safe and orderly development of an increasingly accessible Arctic.

"The missing ingredient is statesmanship by the leaders of nations who are the only individuals that can establish the political will to both promote co-operation and prevent conflict in the Arctic Ocean for the lasting benefit of all," Berkman states in the paper, commissioned by the British defence and security think-tank RUSI, the Royal United Services Institute.

"Such statesmanship - the ability to extinguish the brush fires of the moment and the vision to offer hope for future generations - appears rarely," he notes. "However, peace and stability in the Arctic region have yet to be identified explicitly as national security objectives of all Arctic states."

Berkman suggests the world has barely begun to grasp the scope of the transformation under way in the Arctic, where climate change is opening long-sought shipping routes and major economic opportunities - principally oil exploration, but also fishing, tourism and mining - are emerging faster than many experts had anticipated.

And the changes, argues Berkman, needn't result in a non-militarized Arctic - which some observers are seeking because of concerns over potential resource conflicts in the region - but a peaceful northern frontier in which collaborative defence operations among several nations could ensure the maintenance of environmental integrity and international security.

"Peaceful use of the Arctic Ocean does not have to equate with demilitarization or restrictions on military operations that are otherwise permitted under international law," Berkman asserts. "The raison d'etre for military presence is ostensibly the maintenance of peace and security in the first place."

The Canadian government, like other Arctic coastal states, has made several major promises in recent years to bolster the country's military presence in the North. Although questions linger regarding timelines and precise spending targets, the Conservative government has announced plans for a new, large-scale icebreaker named for former Tory prime minister John Diefenbaker, a fleet of ice-reinforced patrol vessels, a northern military training centre and several other significant investments aimed at asserting Canada's Arctic sovereignty.

Last week, Postmedia News reported that the government has opened door to arming coast guard icebreakers used in the Arctic, as recommended recently by a Senate fisheries committee and a House of Commons defence committee.

In his report, Berkman says the opening of Arctic sea routes will require the kind of infrastructure investments and organizational commitments that characterized Roman empire-building more than 2,000 years ago.

"The Arctic Ocean is being transformed into a global trade route that will involve sea lanes, ports, and administration facilities along with communication, tariff, monitoring and forecasting systems," he writes. "There will be assets that can be deployed quickly for diverse vessel emergencies. There will be new networks to transport resources and commerce southward across continents."

But the "complication in the Arctic Ocean," Berkman notes, "is that such infrastructure will be a shared enterprise of all the Arctic coastal states, together with involvement from many other states and investment from additional stakeholders."

"The challenge will be to manage escalating competition and demand for resources."

The five nations with Arctic Ocean coastlines - Canada, Russia, the U.S. (Alaska), Norway and Denmark (Greenland) - have pledged to co-ordinate search-and-rescue activities and pursue other collaborative projects.

They've also agreed to sort out boundary disputes in a peaceful manner under terms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, although bilateral agreements will also be needed in several cases - including Canada's long-running disagreement with the U.S. over control of the Northwest Passage.

But there remains tension among the Arctic powers, as indicated by the frequent testy exchanges between Canada and Russia over northern test flights by military aircraft. And controversy continues to bubble over the role that non-coastal states - from Iceland and Britain to China and India - could play in governing the Arctic Ocean and participating in its commercial activity.

Noting the Arctic's "vast potential for energy extraction and living resources, a burgeoning trade route that will impact the global balance of power, intensifying interests from non-Arctic states - especially the European Union and China," Berkman concludes that the region's blending of "sovereign jurisdictions" and "international spaces" makes the Arctic Ocean "a unique marine region that will establish global precedents for future generations."

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Discussion Starter · #44 ·
INTERVIEW-US Navy inviting execs to play "shipping game

WASHINGTON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Executives from top U.S. companies, including Wal-Mart and Exxon , are teaming up with the U.S. Navy this week in a "gaming" exercise to study how a warming Arctic Ocean and the widening of the Panama Canal could dramatically change global shipping.

The complex two-day exercise, which begins Wednesday at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, will look at the security concerns and massive investments that may be necessary to cope with the shake up of global trade routes.

"I want people who are looking at this through a different lens," Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead said in an interview. He said the Navy needed industry's input to map out the broad economic, military and environmental consequences of both a wider Panama Canal and the warming Arctic.

"All too often we go crashing into these things and we haven't really thought out the problem," said Roughead, whose multiple Arctic visits have earned him the honorary title of "blue nose."

Roughead welcomed more than 75 experts from industry, think tanks and goverment to the event on Wednesday and said their insights would help the Navy facilitate "the flows of commerce, communication and resources" on the sea lanes.

Analysts say increased commerce through the Panama Canal -- and later the Arctic Ocean -- could help companies save billions of dollars in fuel and shipping costs.

Other companies taking part in the "Global Shipping Game" include Lowe's , shipping giant Maersk <MAERSKb.CO>, Raytheon Co , computer maker Dell , Zurich Insurance , toymaker Hasbro Inc , General Electric Co and railway operator CSX .

Port operators, academics and diplomats from Panama and Chile will also help study the two issues, which may also lead to big changes in port cities and railway traffic on land.

A $5.25 billion project to widen the Panama Canal, to be completed in 2014, will shake up global trade routes by vastlyincreasing the amount of cargo that can pass through the 50-mile (80-km) link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Roughead says the wider canal will allow about 90 percent of cargo ships to pass through, including 86 percent of tankers carrying liquid natural gas, compared to just 6 percent now. [ID:nN18346025]

Just a few years later, he says, the warming of the Arctic Ocean will open the world's fifth ocean to fishing, tourism, oil and gas drilling, and eventually commercial shipping.

"We have not seen a change like that since the end of the ice age," he told a conference last month. "It's one that will have a significant effect on trade and on prosperity."


A major Pentagon review released last February urged the military to reduce the risks associated with climate change, including cutting its dependence on fossil fuels.

Roughead said the Navy is already developing biofuels and improving its energy use, but also needed to think about how rising sea levels could affect coastal areas, and changes in the formerly frozen Arctic.

Navy scientists say commercial shippers could save 5,000 miles and lots of fuel by using sending goods from Asia to Europe via the Arctic beginning in the mid-2030s, when they expect ice-free conditions for a full month each year.

By 2050,the Arctic will likely be ice-free for two to three months, spurring even greater traffic in the region.

"We could be looking at major shipping routes going through the Arctic in just a matter of decades," Navy Oceanographer Rear Admiral David Titley told Reuters, noting the Bering Strait could become a key shipping passage in just 40 years.

"That is a huge change," he said, noting that 90 percent of world commerce was shipped by sea and one of the Navy's key missions was to safeguard U.S. economic interests.

Roughead said he hoped early attention, including this week's gaming exercise, would stave off crises later.

The game, created by war gaming experts at the college, aims to take a closer look at changing shipping patterns and identify the strategic implications of both issues. The outcome will help the Navy when it reexamines its Arctic and climate change "road maps" this spring.


The exercise will also look at the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a treaty which defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world's oceans. The United States abides by the treaty, but has not ratified it, despite strong pleas by Roughead and others.

Roughead said it was imperative for the United States to ratify the treaty. "Otherwise we are not going to be at the table when they start talking about how this is going down," he said. Roughead said he began focusing on Arctic warming several years ago when he spent time on a submarine there and heard firsthand about changing ice conditions.

He said it would probably be about five years before the Navy needed bigger funding to prepare for the opening of the Arctic, but said it was important to understand the issues involved now to allow for better budgeting and planning later.

Decisions will eventually have to be made buying new ships to operate in the region or hardening existing ships to deal with the extreme cold of the North Pole; buying more satellites to relay communications; and related issues, he said.

Investing in Arctic activities would be "really expensive" for industry initially, given the austere environment, but could also provide big rewards, Roughead said.

"The economics are going to drive when it makes it worth somebody's while to go up there to either take advantage of the transportation or take advantage of the resources. Because they're going to go up to make money," he said.

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Discussion Starter · #45 ·
Russia's Sovcomflot plans Suezmax trip via Arctic to Asia in 2011
18 February 2011

Moscow (Platts)--18Feb2011/343 am EST/843 GMT

Russia's largest shipper Sovcomflot is planning to send a Suezmax tanker via the Northern Sea Route from European Russia to Asia over the summer to further demonstrate that regular shipments through the Arctic are realistic, Sovcomflot executive vice president Nikolai Kolesnikov said Friday.

Last August, Sovcomflot shipped an Aframax tanker with a condensate cargo along the Northern Sea Route for Russia's largest independent gas producer Novatek in the first ever voyage by a large vessel along the route.

"We want to make a similar trip, but using a Suezmax vessel this summer," Kolesnikov said at the Russia Offshore conference in Moscow, adding that the route would have to be slightly altered to account for shallow waters in the East Siberian Sea.

Kolesnikov reiterated the route shortens the shipping time to Asia by up to 45% and Sovcomflot hopes to eventually provide customers with the option of sending shipments east via the Northern Sea Route if conditions permit or west via the Suez Canal.

After the successful August test, Novatek said it planned to ship six to eight 72,000 mt cargoes of condensate via the Arctic route in 2011, which would save the company 10-15% on transport costs.

Novatek is testing shipments in the Northern Sea Route as part of its plans for the future Yamal LNG project in northern Russia, which envisions the construction of its first LNG train of between 5-7.5 million mt/year by 2016.

Sovcomflot estimates shipments from Yamal to the Bering Straight between Russia and Alaska would take eight days.

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Discussion Starter · #46 ·
New shipping rules urged to avert "Arctic Titanic"

TROMSOE, Norway, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The Arctic Ocean needs tough new shipping rules as a rapid thaw opens the remote, icy region and brings risks of disasters on the scale of the Titanic, politicians and experts said on Monday.

"We need to agree on a new binding polar code" for shipping, Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told Reuters during a conference on "Arctic Frontiers" in Tromsoe, a city north of the Arctic Circle in Norway.

New shipping standards could cover designs to resist ice, new equipment and navigation rules, he said. In one step towards improved safety, the eight nations in the Arctic Council are due to agree new search and rescue rules in May.

Countries around the Arctic Ocean are shifting to consider regulations as the region opens more to oil and gas exploration and shipping.

Referring to climate change, Stoere said: "The trends are not slower in the Arctic, they are faster." But he said there were no plans to try to charge ships for access to the Arctic.

Two German cargo ships sailed the route along the north coast of Russia in 2009, cutting about 4,000 nautical miles (7,400 km) off what would have been an 11,000-mile voyage between South Korea and the Netherlands via the Suez Canal.

Rear-Admiral David Titley, Oceanographer of the U.S. Navy, said that hazards were greatest for cruise vessels visiting the remote Arctic or Antarctic since they often had hundreds or thousands of passengers, against dozens of crew on cargo ships.

"It has not been because of skill, it has been because of luck that we have not had a Titanic-type disaster," he said in a speech. The Titanic sank in the North Atlantic in 1912 after striking an iceberg, killing 1,517 people.


Titley projected that the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free for 2-3 months in summers -- long enough to attact wider interest from shipping companies -- by around mid-century. That could mean a change in world trade with greater importance for the narrow Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia as a gateway.

"The Bering strait could easily, in 30-40 years, have characteristics of the strait of Malacca or the strait or Hormuz," he said. The strait of Malacca runs between Indonesia, Malysia and Singapore and Hormuz is at the mouth of the Gulf.

Iceland's Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson also urged stricter rules for shipping and oil and gas exploration.

"The geographical situation of Iceland makes her very vulnerable to any change in the marine system, be it from climate change or pollution," he said. Oil breaks down more slowly than in warmer waters further south, such as the Gulf of Mexico, which suffered BP's giant oil spill in 2010.

He said that climate change meant fish stocks, the traditional backbone of the economy, were shifting. Mackerel were moving into Icelandic waters while capelin were moving out.

"We are a bit afraid as well," he said of a likely opening of shipping routes. "It would put a lot of responsibilities on our shoulders for search and rescue."

Russia, the United States, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark are members of the Arctic Council.

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Discussion Starter · #47 ·
More Arctic shipping will up local pollution: Study
Nunatsiaq News
July 12, 2011

With two to four months of ice-free conditions forecast for the Northwest Passage by 2030, scientists are now looking at what more shipping traffic will mean for the circumpolar region.

"The melting of Arctic sea-ice will effectively unlock the Arctic Ocean, leaving it increasingly open to human activity — particularly oil and gas extraction and shipping," say scientists at the Oslo, Norway-based Center for International Climate and Environment Research, the Det Norske Veritas foundation and Statistics Norway.

As new circumpolar shipping routes open, climate-warming and polluting emissions from shipping will rise in the Arctic in places where these have never been seen before, they say in a new study published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

And these have the potential to increase Arctic warming.

"The potential increase in Arctic activities and emissions will not only have an impact on the global climate, but may also impact on regional temperature trends," they say.

Previous research suggests that ship emissions could increase warming in the Arctic — a region that's already experiencing a higher level of warming than others.

As the location of oil and gas production moves into remote Arctic places requiring more ship transport, there will be a "rapid growth" in emissions from oil and gas transport by ship.

Arctic shipping emissions will increase faster than the global average and are expected to rise by up to 25 per cent by 2050, the scientists say.

As well, levels of ground-level ozone are expected to double or triple as Arctic shipping traffic moves away from community re-supply, fishing and tourism.

This ozone affects plants' ability to soak up the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, accelerating warming.

And it can harm lung function and lead to premature death, asthma, bronchitis and heart attacks

Also associated with an increase in Arctic shipping is soot produced by ship exhaust. The impact of soot on the climate doesn't last long— only up to a month at most.

But soot that originates in the Arctic has a powerful impact in the region because its tiny black particles soak up heat.

Canada could be spared the worst of all this, however, as the majority of the transit shipping emissions will occur on the Russian side of the Arctic, the study's lead author, Glen Peters, said in an email.

© Copyright (c) Nunatsiaq News

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Discussion Starter · #48 ·
So will the Canadian Arctic soon become "international waters"?

Canada in danger of missing the boat in the Arctic
The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011 10:07PM EDT

Statements by France’s ambassador for the polar regions, Michel Rocard, that Canada appears to have given up on competing with Russia for Arctic commercial shipping traffic, should serve as a wake up call for Canadians. It may be that the country prefers the Northwest Passage as it is, a slightly-used backwater that best protects the fragile Arctic ecosystem and the traditional Inuit way of life. But if Canadians favour sustainable development in the north, and jobs for northerners, then they are in danger of missing the boat.

A study by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, released in May, revealed the cover of sea ice on the Arctic Ocean is shrinking faster than projected by the U.N.’s expert panel on climate change. It predicts that the Arctic Ocean itself will be virtually free of ice in summer within 30-40 years. The Northwest Passage is forecast to be free of ice earlier than that, in perhaps 20 years. The changing ice conditions make the Northwest Passage an alternative commercial shipping route. The newly-released Danish government Arctic strategy states that use of the passage reduces the distance from Seattle to Europe by almost 25 per cent compared to ships using the Panama Canal. It argues the Northeast Passage, or Northern Sea Route north of Russia, will also result in dramatic savings in distance (and hence costs and time). “The economic benefits of these new routes are potentially significant,” the Danish strategy says.

Yet Canada, despite having a federal government committed to its own Arctic strategy and sustainable development in that largely untapped region, is unprepared for commercial shipping in the Northwest Passage. The infrastructure needed to support such activity does not exist, and there is little sign that will change. Mr. Rochard, a former French prime minister, said he has the “impression that Canada has given up on the competition to attract a large part of the (shipping) traffic in 25 or 30 years.” Russia, by contrast, is actively pursuing the opportunity.

It may be that Canadians are content with this situation, as the costs would be substantial and such development would alter the fundamental nature of Canada’s North. But isn’t it at least a discussion we should be having?

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Discussion Starter · #49 ·
Korea's Shippers Busy Preempting Arctic Sea Route
19 July 2013
The Korea Economic Daily

Korean shipping companies such as Hyundai Merchant Marine, Hanjin Shipping, and Hyundai Glovis are rushing to send their ships to sail the Arctic sea route on an experimental basis. This is because the sea route can save the shippers time and fuel cost substantially if successful. For this reason, other shipping companies in China and Japan are also getting in on the act.

Ships traveling between Busan and Rotterdam, the Netherlands, through the Northeast Passage can shorten their sailing distance to 13,000 kilometers from the current 20,000 kilometers via the Suez Canal. The traveling time can also be cut to 30 days from 40 days. In the same way, the Busan-New York route can be curtailed by 5,000 kilometers to 13,000 kilometers, with the traveling time reduced to 19 days from 25.

As late as 2007, the Arctic Sea ice began melting in September, allowing ships to travel freely for only one month in a year. But climate change and the accompanying global warming have moved up the ice-melting time to July, giving ships four months a year to travel free of icebergs. Until 2005, there were only seven cases of successful cargo ship voyage through the treacherous seas. But last year alone the number has increased to 46, including the end-to-end travel by an LNG carrier owned by Russia's Gazprom.

But the problem is that the shippers must build hardier vessels that can withstand the shock of floating ice. It would cost them more while making them pay higher insurance premiums. In addition, the thicker, heavier ships may cause them to be less energy efficient. For this reason, it remains to be seen whether the newly opened Northern sea route will turn into a golden opportunity for Asia's shippers.

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Discussion Starter · #50 ·
September 8, 2016
Apocalypse Tourism? Cruising the Melting Arctic Ocean
Come aboard! Let’s sail the once-impenetrable Northwest Passage.
Bloomberg Excerpt

On Aug. 16, the Crystal Serenity set out from Seward, Alaska, carrying 1,700 passengers and crew, and escorted by a comparatively minuscule, 1,800-ton icebreaker. She circled west and north around the Alaska Peninsula and through the Bering Strait before heading east into the maze of straits and sounds that constitute the Northwest Passage. For centuries, explorers tried to establish a sea route here between Europe and Asia. Many met with ruin. A few stranded sailors famously ate their boots—and each other. When the Crystal Serenity emerged free and clear of the maze on Sept. 5, there were no accounts of scurvy or cannibalism, only tales of bingeing on themed buffets and grumbles from shutterbugs about the Arctic’s monotonous landscape.

Operated by Crystal Cruises, the Serenity became on that day the first passenger liner to successfully ply the Northwest Passage. As climate change melts Arctic sea ice twice as fast as models predicted, more and larger ships have made their way along these fatal shores. In 2013, the Nordic Orion was the first bulk cargo carrier to transit the Passage, hauling a load of coal.

Rates on the Serenity started at around $22,000 per person. For that, passengers were anointed, by Slate, “the world’s worst people”—for venturing into a vulnerable ecosystem in a diesel-burning, 69,000-ton behemoth. Canada’s National Post described the cruise as an “invasion” of indigenous communities. Britain’s Telegraph hinted at Titanic hubris, asking, Is this “the world’s most dangerous cruise”?

As for the Arctic villages the Serenity visited, they were, depending on whom you ask, either overwhelmed or overjoyed by the ship’s hordes of curious, wealthy strangers. The communities staged dances, hawked arts and crafts, and expressed hope that the Crystal Serenity reaches New York safely on Sept. 16. Assuming it does, Crystal Cruises plans to offer the route again next year, departing Anchorage on Aug. 15. Edie Rodriguez, the company’s chief executive officer, says that a few passengers have already rebooked.

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Sabetta grows. The unique Arctic project.

Sabetta is a new seaport under construction on the eastern coast of the Yamal Peninsula in the Ob Bay. It is a key element of an ambitious project of the Russian Federation – Yamal LNG, which involves construction of an LNG plant capable of producing 16.5 mln tons of LNG and up to 1.2 mln tons of gas condensate annually from the resources of the South Tambey Field, which will be shipped to Asia and Europe along the Northern Sea Route all year round. Phase 1 of the plant is to be operational in the third quarter of 2017.

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First icebreaking LNG tanker calls Sabetta

The Arctic port of Sabetta, Russia, last week welcomed the world’s first icebreaking LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie on its maiden voyage along the Northern Sea Route. The tanker was loaded with a test volume of liquefied natural gas in the port of Murmansk on 14 February and arrived at Sabetta on March 28 in the course of its sea trials in the Arctic waters.
Christophe de Margerie has gross tonnage (GRT) of 128,806 t., draught (loading) of 11.8m and capacity of 172,600 cubic meters of LNG. Its length overall (L.O.A.) is 299m and breadth is 50m.
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Discussion Starter · #53 ·
Sails on the horizon in the Northwest Passage as tall ship plans summer voyage
'It's about as state-of-the-art, and about as far away from Sir John Franklin, as you can get'
CBC News Excerpt
Apr 29, 2017

The first tall ship in more than 100 years will sail through the Northwest Passage this summer, according to voyage organizers.

The SSV Oliver Hazard Perry looks like a traditional 19th century sailing ship with three masts and square sails, but its steel hull and twin engines will give it better odds of making the journey than explorers from the 1800s.

"It's about as state-of-the-art, and about as far away from Sir John Franklin, as you can get," said David Clark, the director creating a documentary film of the voyage.

Norwegian adventurer Roald Amundsen sailed the Gjoa, a square-sterned fishing vessel, through the passage between 1903 and 1906. According to the Canadian Coast Guard, since 1903 "no tall ships have made either a full, or partial transit, of the Northwest Passage."

Clark originally conceived of a trip through the passage to explore the varied implications of an ice-free Arctic with a documentary.

"It's a real turning point, I think, for this very unique place in the world, that was for so long unapproachable and now is quite approachable."

He contacted the University of Rhode Island's Inner Space Center and the project grew.

With their expedition partners, Clark and the Inner Space Center won a nearly $3 million US grant from the National Science Foundation in the United States.

"The fundamental focus is looking at a changing Arctic because of warming climate, but now it's going to engage students, and be doing some actual science as well as the documentary film," Clark said.

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Discussion Starter · #54 ·
Silk Road through the Arctic is proposed
Wednesday, July 05, 2017
China Daily Excerpt

President Xi Jinping called on Tuesday for cooperation on the Arctic passage with Russia to help jointly build a Silk Road through the ice.

Xi made the remark during his meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the Kremlin in Moscow on his two-day state visit to Russia.

Xi also called for the implementation of projects to boost interconnection.

Calling Russia an important partner in advancing the building of the Belt and Road, Xi said that the two countries have huge potential and a bright future in pragmatic cooperation.

Both should expand cooperation in areas such as the economy, trade, investment and energy; implement major cooperation projects in manufacturing; and enhance high-speed rail cooperation, Xi said. He also called for more efforts to push forward the construction of the Moscow-Kazan high-speed rail project as soon as possible.

The two countries should deepen local-level cooperation, and give priority to working together in cross-border infrastructure construction, resource exploitation, modern agricultural methods and production capacity, he said.

The two countries should also expand people-to-people exchanges in education, culture, sports, tourism and media, Xi said.

He said China is confident of working with Russia to deal with global challenges.

They should stick to mutual support and mutual openness, expand cooperation to create a good environment for the development of their relations and use more power to maintain world peace and stability, Xi said.

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Discussion Starter · #55 ·
Oct. 10, 2016
Uncharted waters: Mega-cruise ships sail the Arctic
Reuters Excerpt

SVALBARD, Norway (Reuters) - A surge in Arctic tourism is bringing ever bigger cruise ships to the formerly isolated, ice-bound region, prompting calls for a clamp-down to prevent Titanic-style accidents and the pollution of fragile eco-systems.

Arctic nations should consider limiting the size of vessels and ban the use of heavy fuel oil in the region, industry players said, after a first luxury cruise ship sailed safely through Canada's Northwest Passage this summer.

The route, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via the Arctic, was once clogged with icebergs but is now ice-free in summer due to global warming.

With a minimum ticket price of $19,755, the 1,700 passengers and crew on board the Crystal Serenity followed - in reverse - the route first navigated more than a century ago by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. They left Anchorage in Alaska on Aug. 15 and docked in New York on Sep. 16.

The ship's operator, Crystal Cruises, says on its website it will repeat the voyage in 2017. It declined a request for comment when contacted by Reuters.

Two shipping executives expressed concern that the one-off trip could become a trend, citing worries over safety, risks to the environment and the impact on small communities, in an area where there is no port between Anchorage and Nuuk, in Greenland.

"The Northwest Passage is thousands and thousands of nautical miles with absolutely nothing ... There is a need to discuss possible regulation," said Tero Vauraste, the CEO of Arctia, a Finnish shipping firm specializing in icebreakers.

Were a ship to be in trouble in the Northwest Passage, there would be little authorities could do given the lack of infrastructure, he said.

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Discussion Starter · #56 ·
August 24, 2018
Maersk sends first container ship through Arctic route

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - A Maersk vessel loaded with Russian fish and South Korean electronics will next week become the first container ship to navigate an Arctic sea route that Russia hopes will become a new shipping highway.

The Arctic voyage by the 3,600 20-foot container capacity Venta Maersk is the latest step in the expansion of the so-called Northern Sea Route which is becoming more accessible to ships as climate change reduces the amount of sea ice.

The brand new Venta Maersk, one of the world’s largest ice-class vessels, will also collect scientific data, said Maersk, underlining that the voyage is a one-off trial for now.

The decision by Maersk, the world’s biggest container shipping group, to test out the route is a positive sign for Russia, which hopes this could become a mini Suez Canal, cutting sea transport times from Asia to Europe.

“A well-respected company like Maersk sending a container ship through the Arctic, definitely signals there’s something there,” Malte Humpert, a senior fellow at U.S.-based think-tank Arctic Institute, said.

The Northern Sea Route runs from Murmansk near Russia’s border with Norway to the Bering Strait near Alaska. Ships sailing it require a permit from Russian authorities.

While the route is significantly shorter than going via the Suez Canal, it has not yet proven to be commercially viable for container shippers.

“Currently, we do not see the Northern Sea Route as an alternative to our usual routes,” a spokeswoman for Maersk said.

“Today, the passage is only feasible for around three months a year which may change with time,” the spokeswoman said.

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Another intriguing Arctic sea route is from north America to Europe or Asia by way of Churchill, Manitoba. It could significantly cut shipping costs and time in transit. Instead of shipping to the east coast or west coast of north America, goods could head north to this Hudson's Bay port and on to Europe or Asia.

Courtesy of the University of Manitoba

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Discussion Starter · #59 ·
Is the Arctic set to become a main shipping route?
BBC News Excerpt
1 November 2018

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

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.

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I wonder how many ice-free days are there every year in the NW vs. NE passages?
Sorry for the late reply and I couldn't find that information. I may be wrong but I don't think they measure it by number of ice free days but % ice coverage.

"The decline in summertime sea-ice in the Arctic is an important indicator for the progressive climate change and its effects on the polar regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Since the advent of continuous satellite monitoring in 1979, the September sea-ice cover in the Arctic has lost an average of ca. 13.3 % per decade in relation to the long-term mean for the years 1981 to 2010, and has shrunk from ca. 7.5 million km² to an average extent of ca. 4.6 million km²."

Some areas would clearly be free of ice while others might have partial ice coverage which wouldn't be significant for shipping purposes. We've already seen a cruise ship go through but shipping typically insists on more predictability before they'll invest in a new route. If the trend line continues I doubt that day will be too far off. We could see shipping routes between Canada and Asia/Europe in the next 20 years.
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