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Arctic Shipping Lanes Open as Polar Ice Retreats

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Arctic shipping lanes to open as polar ice bids a retreat
Rapid arctic climate change is set to open the northern seas for a major expansion in oil transportation and exploration
24 May 2005
Lloyd's List

FOR ALL the controversy surrounding the science of global warming, the shipping industry can be sure of the fact that the retreat of the polar ice cap means commercial Arctic sea lanes will be a reality by 2050.

Centuries of romance surrounding the icy fate of explorers, such as Martin Frobisher, Wilhelm Barents or John Franklin, and their search for a northern passage over the next few decades will melt into reality.

Arctic climate researchers with extensive recent field work report that change from the later half of the 20th century has been unprecedented.

Experts from the US Arctic Research Commission in Alaska to organisations such as Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research agree there is no evidence this process is going to let up.

This July, the science will be published in the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment following approval in November by international forum the Arctic Council in Reykjavik.

“The Arctic is now experiencing some of the most rapid and severe climate change on Earth”, emphasises US Arctic Research Commission deputy executive director Dr Lawson Brigham. “Each of the five global climate models used offer a continuous decline in Arctic sea ice cover throughout the 21st century. The observed retreat of Arctic sea ice is a real phenomenon.”

The importance of these findings to the industry was in evidence recently at a Lloyd’s List Arctic conference that drew top figures from across shipping.

An Arctic marine strategic plan, lead by Iceland and Canada through the Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment working group, has set down an initial map of the risks posed by shipping and the energy industry for the region’s environment and people.

The Reykjavik summit also established a full-scale Arctic marine shipping assessment, with Canada, Finland and the US at the helm, over the next three years.

Even the staunchest sports utility vehicle enthusiast can no longer dispute the steady decrease in polar ice cover, even if explanations how and why are hotly disputed.

The paradox for shipping is that this dramatic sea change — viewed by others as a global catastrophe — holds out huge business opportunities.

And the driving force for this will be oil and gas transportation through the Russian northern seas, and to a lesser extent through the North American Arctic, and demand for more of the very fossil fuels behind the ice’s steady retreat.

By the mid-century a wider expanse of open water in the Arctic during the summer will offer shipping seasonal trade lanes, as accumulated multi-layer ice in the central Arctic decreases and sea ice thins around the ocean.

An ice-free summer Arctic Ocean by 2050, with multi-year ice in the sea disappearing, is one likelihood, with remaining sea ice in summer by 2100 retreating further away from most Arctic coasts.

Other projections for the end of the century calculate a 25% probability of unimpeded access along the Northern Sea Route for almost 180 days of the year.

“There are many variables, but it is clear that warming in the Arctic is occurring”, adds US Arctic Research Commission chair George B Newton. “More and more of the Arctic will become ice free each year and will be that way for longer periods of time.

“Routine Arctic shipping will be possible in about three decades, limited to shorter voyages with intercontinental transit later.”

Effected areas include the Russian Littoral, the Canadian archipelago, the Lincoln Sea north of Greenland and off the Alaskan north slope, all of which are shallow water or continental shelf areas where first year ice forms.

The latest observational data suggests a 3% decrease per decade in sea ice, with perennial pack ice diminishing by 7% every ten years and ice thickness reductions reported between 14% to 32% over the time span.

“This has great significance for Arctic marine shipping since multi-year ice would essentially disappear, with all the next winter’s sea ice first-year”, adds Dr Brigham.

“Global climate models to the end of the century suggest increased marine access and an extended season of navigation in nearly all Arctic regional seas.”

Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research meteorologist Dr Jan Lieser, who has participated in three Arctic expeditions on the German RV Polarstern, points out that there has been a steady retreat in sea ice cover since 1978, with a record ice loss in September 2002.

Scientific analysis of the Canadian Arctic Northwest Passage has not been clear-cut, with inter-annual variability of observed sea ice in the region.

However, observation of Russia’s northern sea route from the Kara Gate to the Bering Strait shows a lengthening season for shipping through the century. With ice remaining on the tip of Severnaya Zemlaya, ACIA research suggests there will be a reliance on a transit route through Vilkitskii Strait between the seas of Kara and Laptev, rather than further north in the open Arctic Ocean.

And, amid all the talk of a doomsday in the cryosphere, Arctic experts are also at pains to stress that research indicates that winter Arctic sea ice will undergo only a modest decrease in coming years.

“There will always be an ice covered Arctic Ocean in winter, although the ice may be thinner and contain less multi-year ice”, adds Dr Brigham.

The ACIA research has also led to the development of an ice atlas of the future, which will offer a strategic, long range view of the possible shape over coming decades of sea ice and marine access in the Arctic basin.

“Sea-going interests will look to the polar routes as a way to reduce costs”, observes Mr Newton. “Transit time and distance savings of nearly 40% can be anticipated using either Russian or Canadian routes.”

One major concern for shipping, apart from the economics of commercial Arctic exploitation, will be safety, with increased oil production and shipping raising the spectre of oil spillage.

“With easier access and increased shipping, and on and offshore exploitation of fuel resources, the concern for an oil spill in high latitude, ice-infested waters becomes very real”, warns Mr Newton.

“It is an event the world is ill prepared to face”.

With 982 spills of at least 10,000 gallons since 1960 off high traffic areas, such as the English Channel and Florida and Malacca Straits, Mr Newton argues that an accident at some point statistically is not unlikely.

“One must assume that a significant oil spill will occur some day in the Arctic Ocean sea ice”, he warns.

The environmental impact of increased oil shipments in the region is an important aspect of a three-year EC-backed research programme into the development of a marine transportation network in Russia’s northern sea routes. Arctic Operational Platform started in 2002 and has counted 22 participants from seven countries, including Russia, Finland, Norway, Germany and Great Britain.

ARCOP figures project a twelvefold growth of export volume by the end of the decade to 102.9m tonnes of crude from northern Russian ports from 8.1m tonnes in 2003, with a peak estimate of around 151.m tonnes.

Big projects include the Shtokman gas project in the Barents, and the inshore terminal at Varandey in the Pechora Sea, as well as the Prirazlomnoye offshore field.

Another Pechora Sea project at Indiga is set to yield 50m by 2010 for Transneft, and is an alternative to Lukoil’s proposed development of Varandey, which already pumps 400,000 tonnes of oil and could yield 20m at full pelt or 12m projected for 2010.

Lukoil’s joint development of Severodvinsk with Taftnet is expected to offer 10m tonnes by the end of the decade and 15m at its peak.

Tambeyneftegaz’s plans for Tambey potentially tripling from 10m tonnes at the end of the decade.

Rosneft has its hand in three projects, with exports in 2010 via the more easterly Dikson development up to 10m and via Arkhangelsk more than doubling to 4.2m with a potential for 7m tonnes. The offshore Prirazlomnoye field is inked for 5.9m tonnes by the end of the decade going to perhaps 7m tonnes.

“Russia is the biggest supplier of oil and gas to Europe and Europe is the biggest user of Russian oil and gas”, explains project co-ordinator Kimmo Juurmaa of Aker Finnyards.

“For the participating European and Russian industries, this project gives ideas of how to develop their products.”

The project focused on an oil transportation scenario from Varandey to Rotterdam, with the development of the south-east part of the Barents considered a realistic first step in the development of the region.

Taking a conservative hypothetical transport volume of 328,000 barrels per day or 16m tonnes per year, the project has also presumed $15 per tonne for the Varandey-Rotterdam route.

The shipping analysis focuses on six areas of concern ranging from ice and navigational information to legal and cross border issues.

The big stumbling block for many investors has been the legal status of the northern sea routes, with the confused state of ice classification rules and the cost of insurance.

For now shipping has to assess the economics and feasibility of an Arctic transportation system, with suitable tanker sizes and corresponding icebreaking alternative.

With shallow coastlines and approaches requiring offshore loading, specially-designed terminals and sub-sea pipelines, along with testing conditions for manpower and machinery, Arctic projects will be a huge operational challenge.

And it is these issues that the shipping industry will have to assess over the next decade if commercial sea lanes are to be a reality in 2050.
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41 - 60 of 88 Posts
I wonder how many ice-free days are there every year in the NW vs. NE passages?
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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Russia, eyeing Arctic future, launches nuclear icebreaker
25 May 2019

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russia launched a nuclear-powered icebreaker on Saturday, part of an ambitious program to renew and expand its fleet of the vessels in order to improve its ability to tap the Arctic's commercial potential.

The ship, dubbed the Ural and which was floated out from a dockyard in St Petersburg, is one of a trio that when completed will be the largest and most powerful icebreakers in the world.

Russia is building new infrastructure and overhauling its ports as, amid warmer climate cycles, it readies for more traffic via what it calls the Northern Sea Route (NSR) which it envisages being navigable year-round.

The Ural is due to be handed over to Russia's state-owned nuclear energy corporation Rosatom in 2022 after the two other icebreakers in the same series, Arktika (Arctic) and Sibir (Siberia), enter service.

"The Ural together with its sisters are central to our strategic project of opening the NSR to all-year activity," Alexey Likhachev, Rosatom's chief executive, was quoted saying.

President Vladimir Putin said in April Russia was stepping up construction of icebreakers with the aim of significantly boosting freight traffic along its Arctic coast.

The drive is part of a push to strengthen Moscow's hand in the High North as it vies for dominance with traditional rivals Canada, the United States and Norway, as well as newcomer China.

By 2035, Putin said Russia's Arctic fleet would operate at least 13 heavy-duty icebreakers, nine of which would be powered by nuclear reactors.

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'Punch in the gut' as scientists find micro plastic in Arctic ice

LONDON, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Tiny pieces of plastic have been found in ice cores drilled in the Arctic by a U.S.-led team of scientists, underscoring the threat the growing form of pollution poses to marine life in even the remotest waters on the planet.

The researchers used a helicopter to land on ice floes and retrieve the samples during an 18-day icebreaker expedition through the Northwest Passage, the hazardous route linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

"We had spent weeks looking out at what looks so much like pristine white sea ice floating out on the ocean," said Jacob Strock, a graduate student researcher at the University of Rhode Island, who conducted an initial onboard analysis of the cores.

"When we look at it up close and we see that it’s all very, very visibly contaminated when you look at it with the right tools -- it felt a little bit like a punch in the gut,” Strock told Reuters by telephone on Wednesday.

Strock and his colleagues found the material trapped in ice taken from Lancaster Sound, an isolated stretch of water in the Canadian Arctic, which they had assumed might be relatively sheltered from drifting plastic pollution.

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Yamal LNG on fast boat to China as Northern route melts early
Reuters Excerpt
May 19, 2020

The first vessel to deliver a liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargo from Russia’s Yamal plant via the Northern Sea Route this year is on its way to China, ship-tracking data showed and analysts said.

The direct route to Asia, shorter than the westward journey via Europe, is frozen for much of the year, but is being used increasingly as climate change means it is free of ice for longer.

This year’s opening is more than a month earlier compared to 2019, when first vessel to go via the route left Yamal LNG on June 29.

The Christophe de Margerie vessel, an Arc7-classed LNG tanker, left the Sabbeta port in Russia’s Arctic on May 18 and is expected at China National Petroleum Corp’ (CNPC) Tangshan LNG terminal on June 11, data on Refinitiv Eikon showed.

More : Yamal LNG on fast boat to China as Northern route melts early
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Russia's Gazprom Neft sends its first oil cargo to China via Arctic route
July 13, 2020

MOSCOW, July 13 (Reuters) - Russia's Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of gas giant Gazprom, has shipped its first cargo with Arctic oil to China via the Northern Sea Route (NSR), it said on Monday.

Russia is betting on the NSR, an Arctic route requiring icebreakers and special ice-class tankers, to deliver cargoes both to Europe and Asia. Novatek, its top private gas producer, is shipping super-cooled gas via the NSR year-round.

Gazprom Neft said on Monday it took 47 days to deliver a cargo with 144,000 tonnes of light Novy Port oil grade to the Chinese port of Yantai on the Bohai Sea from Russia's north-western city of Murmansk.

More : Russia's Gazprom Neft sends its first oil cargo to China via Arctic route
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Canadian Navy to welcome first Arctic and offshore patrol ship on Friday
Global News Excerpt
July 31, 2020

The Royal Canadian Navy is set to officially welcome the first Arctic and offshore patrol ship to its fleet on Friday.

HMCS Harry deWolf is the first armed warship to have been finished through the federal government’s multibillion-dollar shipbuilding plan.

It arrives two years behind schedule. The original plan was to have Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax deliver the ship in 2018, before the date was pushed to the end of 2019 and then the first three months of 2020 before finally arriving at this date.

The deWolf is the first of six new Arctic and offshore patrol vessels to be built in decades for the Royal Canadian Navy to conduct military operations in the Arctics.

Rob Huebert, an expert on the Arctic at the University of Calgary, told the Canadian Press that the deWolf’s arrival heralds a significant shift for the navy, which has tended to focus on the rest of the world and leave Canada’s Far North to the Canadian Coast Guard.

More : Canadian Navy to welcome first Arctic and offshore patrol ship on Friday
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COVID-19 blamed as work on Arctic military port first promised in 2007 sees new delay
The Canadian Press Excerpt
August 2, 2020

The construction of a new military refuelling station in the Arctic is facing yet another delay more than 13 years after it was first promised by the federal government.

Stephen Harper, when he was prime minister, first announced plans to build the Nanisivik deep-water port in Nunavut, along with up to eight armed Arctic patrol vessels, in 2007.

The long-standing expectation was that the port, located on Baffin Island about 20 kilometres from Arctic Bay, would be ready when the first of those ships was finally delivered to the Royal Canadian Navy.

Yet while the first Arctic patrol vessel was handed over to the navy on Friday after numerous delays and cost overruns, the Department of National Defence says the Nanisivik facility won't be ready until 2022.

Defence Department spokesperson Jessica Lamirande blamed travel difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic for the latest delay, which follows numerous environmental and structural problems over the years.

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Arctic Sea Ice Shrank to Record Lows in July
Bloomberg Excerpt
Aug 6, 2020

Ice covering the Arctic Ocean reached the lowest level since at least 1979 for July as temperatures spiked in the region, leaving large stretches of Russia’s Siberian coast mostly ice-free.

Sea ice extent in the Arctic last month was 27% below the average set between 1981 and 2020, the lowest level ever recorded, with the previous July low set in 2012, according to a monthly report by Europe’s Copernicus agency.

The Arctic, which is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet, has endured a heatwave through spring and summer that saw record-high temperatures, an early start of the fire season and the opening up of usually frozen sea routes to shipping companies.

Satellite readings show ice-free conditions almost everywhere along the so-called Northern Sea Route, which spans through Russia’s northern coast. The region shows the highest levels of ice melting and also the highest temperatures for the Arctic region in July, compared to the historical average, Copernicus said.

Ice begins melting in the Arctic as spring approaches in the northern hemisphere, and then it usually starts building again toward the end of September as the days grow shorter and cooler.

More : Arctic Sea Ice Shrank to Record Lows in July
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As Arctic ice melts, polluting ships stream into polar waters
Aug 28, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) - As melting sea ice opens the Arctic to navigation, more ships are plying the loosely regulated polar waters, bringing increasing amounts of climate-warming pollution, a Reuters analysis of new shipping and fuel-consumption data shows.

Traffic through the icy region’s busiest lane along the Siberian coast increased 58% between 2016 and 2019. Last year, ships made 2,694 voyages on the Northern Sea Route, according to data collected by researchers from the Centre for High North Logistics at Norway’s Nord University.

The trade is driven by commodities producers – mainly in Russia, China and Canada – sending iron ore, oil, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and other fuels through Arctic waters.

Even the COVID-19 pandemic, which has significantly slowed shipping worldwide as supply chains have been disrupted, has not prevented traffic increasing on the Arctic artery. Ships made 935 voyages in the first half of 2020, up to the end of June, compared with 855 in the same period last year, the data shows.

The increase in shipping is a worry for the environment. As those heavy ships burn fuel, they release climate-warming carbon dioxide as well as black soot. That soot blankets nearby ice and snow, absorbing solar radiation rather than reflecting it back out of the atmosphere, which exacerbates warming in the region.

More : As Arctic ice melts, polluting ships stream into polar waters

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Russia says world's largest nuclear icebreaker embarks on Arctic voyage
Sep 22, 2020

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A nuclear-powered ice breaker Russia says is the world’s largest and most powerful set off on Tuesday on a two-week journey to the Arctic as part of Moscow’s efforts to tap the region’s commercial potential.

Known as “Arktika,” the nuclear icebreaker left St. Petersburg and headed for the Arctic port of Murmansk, a journey that marks its entry into Russia’s icebreaker fleet.

Russian state firm Rosatomflot has called the vessel the world’s largest and most powerful icebreaker. It is more than 173 metres long, designed for a crew of 53, and can break ice almost three-metres thick.

The ship is seen as crucial to Moscow’s efforts to develop the Northern Sea Route, which runs from Murmansk to the Bering Strait near Alaska.

Amid warmer climate cycles, Russia hopes the route could become a mini Suez Canal, cutting sea transport times from Asia to Europe.

More : Russia says world's largest nuclear icebreaker embarks on Arctic voyage
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Arctic headache for ship insurers as routes open up
Oct 27, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) - When Captain Will Whatley guides a ship through Arctic waters, he is starkly aware of what can go wrong.

Double the manpower is needed to navigate. Lookout shifts are kept to just one hour, so sailors don’t lose concentration and miss a mass of floating ice. Big icebergs show up on radar, but smaller, truck-sized “bergy bits” - even more dangerous - can be missed, the captain says.

The cold can freeze equipment and the earth’s magnetic field disrupts compasses. If anything goes wrong, “you are so far away from help,” said Whatley, 31, who sails through Arctic and Antarctic waters for the British Antarctic Survey.

As climate change opens new sea routes, experienced polar captains like Whatley are coveted for Arctic voyages that can save money on the run between Europe and Asia. But as activity in the Arctic’s waters picks up, insurance companies are grappling with a fundamental question: If something goes wrong, who pays?

So far, it’s unclear that the cost of a major accident would be completely covered by insurance. Damages from a ship spilling oil, hitting an iceberg or becoming marooned can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

More : Arctic headache for ship insurers as routes open up
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UN approves ban on heavy ship fuel in Arctic

LONDON, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The United Nations shipping agency on Friday approved a ban on the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic region in a move criticised by green groups which said loopholes will allow many vessels to keep sailing without enough regulatory control.

Antarctic waters are protected by stringent regulations, including a ban on heavy oil fuel (HFO) adopted in 2011, even though no cargo moves through the turbulent southern waters. For the Arctic, the rules have been looser.

In a virtual session of its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) approved a ban on the use of HFO and its carriage for use by ships in Arctic waters after July 1, 2024.

More : UN approves ban on heavy ship fuel in Arctic
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Warming Arctic at the frontier of climate insight and risk, experts say
Jan 12, 2021

HONG KONG/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The environmental transformation happening in the Arctic is key to understanding the potential global impacts of climate change, an Alaska Native leader and a polar explorer told the Reuters Next conference on Monday.

With climate change warming the Arctic twice as fast as the overall planet, newly possible commercial activities have also raised questions about responsibility and risk at the top of the world, an insurance expert said.

Native peoples’ observations of changes in the Arctic - such as diseases in fish, or shifts in the time of year when mountain snow melts - are key to understanding how climate change affects the whole ecosystem, said Ilarion Merculieff, president of the Global Center for Indigenous Leadership and Lifeways.

“Native people see things as interdependent, interlocking and synergistically combined,” said Merculieff, who is an Unangan from the Pribilof Islands off the west coast of Alaska. “We maintain that we need to have our different perspectives involved in western science.”


“The Arctic is at the frontier of risk,” said Neil Roberts, head of marine and aviation at Lloyd’s of London Market Association, adding that insurers assessing Arctic projects must consider environmental and social factors as well as commercial ones.

“An insurer’s role is to support commerce,” said Roberts. “In terms of whether we should be up there, that’s a wider moral question.”

More : Warming Arctic at the frontier of climate insight and risk, experts say
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First Arctic Navigation in February Sends a Worrying Climate Signal
Bloomberg Excerpt
Feb 22, 2021

A tanker sailed through Arctic sea ice in February for the first time, the latest sign of how quickly the pace of climate change is accelerating in the Earth’s northernmost regions.

The Christophe de Margerie was accompanied by the nuclear-powered 50 Let Pobedy icebreaker as it sailed back to Russia this month after carrying liquified natural gas to China through the Northern Sea Route in January. Both trips broke navigation records.

“I am confident that the Northern Sea Route is competitive, that changes in the ice situation and the improvement of marine technologies create new conditions for its development,” said Yury Trutnev, Russia’s deputy prime minister and a member of the supervisory board at Rosatom, the state-owned nuclear corporation that manages the route.

More : Bloomberg - Are you a robot?
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UN adopts ban on heavy fuel oil use by ships in Arctic

LONDON, June 17 (Reuters) - The United Nations shipping agency on Thursday adopted a ban on the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic region while green groups said the regulations contained loopholes which will allow many vessels to keep sailing without enough regulatory control.

Antarctic waters are protected by stringent regulations, including a ban on heavy oil fuel (HFO) adopted in 2011, even though no cargo moves through the turbulent southern waters. For the Arctic, the rules have been looser.

In a virtual session of its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) the UN's International Maritime Organization (IMO) approved a ban on the use of HFO and its carriage for use by ships in Arctic waters after July 1, 2024.

More : UN adopts ban on heavy fuel oil use by ships in Arctic
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Russia looks to Northern Sea Route as its military ambitions expand
Nikkei Asia Excerpt
Mar 13, 2022

Russia recently started building a shelter for submarines on the Kamchatka Peninsula in its remote Far East, fanning concerns it aims to use the Northern Sea Route, a shipping lane that connects Asia and Europe via the Arctic, for more than purely economic purposes.

The shelter, located near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the largest city in the Kamchatka Peninsula and a key base for the Russian Pacific Fleet, will be supply submarines with missiles, torpedoes and fuel, according to Russia's Izvestia daily newspaper, as well as hosting full-scale repair and maintenance work. State-of-the-art minesweepers will also use the site.


This area, however, has one big strategic disadvantage: It is not connected to the rest of Russia by land transport routes. All supplies have to be carried to the city by air or by sea, which are naturally susceptible to bad weather. Moreover, electricity is costly and supply is unstable in the area, which mainly depends on power generated by diesel. In a nutshell, the region is plagued by logistical challenges.

But, if the melting of ice as the planet warms paves the way to the year-round use of the Arctic shortcut between Europe and Asia, that could reshape the way things move between the two regions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to see this as more than simply a new strategic opportunity for unlocking and monetizing Russia's vast oil and gas reserves in the Arctic.

More : Russia looks to Northern Sea Route as its military ambitions expand
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What next for China’s Polar Silk Road as Russian invasion of Ukraine sparks Arctic freeze?
South China Morning Post Excerpt
Mar 21, 2022

China must exercise caution in navigating Arctic cooperation with Russia, observers say, as the invasion of Ukraine overshadows international collaboration in the polar region and puts a freeze on Arctic Council activities.

Seven of the eight Arctic Council members – all bar Russia, the current rotating chair – have announced a boycott of meetings, including upcoming talks in Russia, over the country’s “flagrant violation” of the body’s core principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The March 3 joint statement – from the US, Canada, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – places a question mark over the future of the leading inter-governmental forum for Arctic states.

More : What next for China’s Polar Silk Road as Putin’s war sparks Arctic freeze?
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What is behind Russia’s interest in a warming Arctic?
Al Jazeera Excerpt
Mar 28, 2022

The Arctic is one of the last remaining untapped areas of the world.

Its harsh climate and temperatures hostile to human life have long acted as a natural barrier to development and exploitation, but the climate crisis is fast changing this.

Six countries surround the Arctic Ocean, perched on the top of the world: Russia, Canada, the United States, Denmark, Norway and Iceland.

Now, this remote wilderness is changing. The disastrous effects of global warming have melted the polar ice caps and access to resources, tens of trillions of dollars worth, are tantalisingly within humanity’s grasp. There are fish to feed growing populations, and fossil fuels within reach in an era of dwindling reserves as global industry continues to depend on the old ways of producing energy.

The increased international competition that this will bring has spurred military spending and the deployment of specialised forces to the region to protect claims and each country’s own interests.

More : What is behind Russia’s interest in a warming Arctic?
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War in Ukraine threatens geopolitical balance in the Arctic
France24 Excerpt
Apr 20, 2022

Russia shares a maritime border in the Arctic with European and American members of NATO. While environmental concerns and economic interests have typically dominated collaboration in the region, the war in Ukraine threatens to upset this careful balance.

Russia’s senior diplomat at the Arctic Council intergovernmental forum, Nikolai Korchunov, spoke out on April 17 about NATO’s increased presence in the Arctic since the war in Ukraine began. He said long-planned military drills between NATO, Finland and Sweden in the region in March were “a cause for concern” for Russia.

“The Alliance recently held another large-scale military exercise in northern Norway. In our view, this does not contribute to the security of the region," he said.

More : War in Ukraine threatens geopolitical balance in the Arctic
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41 - 60 of 88 Posts