Thursday, July 14, 2011

The opening of Arctic sea routes

By Joshua Ho in Eurasia Review: ... The effects of climate change as a result of global warming include the increase in adverse weather events; water shortages; sea level rise and consequential flooding and destruction of coastlines. There will be a decrease in crop yields due to increasing temperatures and a reduction in water supply; and an increase in temperature-related illnesses and deaths.

Some traditional activities like agriculture, fisheries and tourism might be reduced or even disappear altogether in regions that are heavily affected by climate change. Societies that are not able to adapt to climate change will experience great suffering. However, there are some positive aspects associated with global warming. The opening of new sea lanes that can reduce transit times between destinations is one of them.

According to the Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) 2009 Report, there is a possibility of the Arctic Ocean becoming ice-free for a short period in summer as early as 2015. This would mean the disappearance of multi-year ice, which would not last during the summer melt season. Notwithstanding the prognosis of an early opening of Arctic routes, like the Northern Sea Route, the AMSA assesses that transit traffic in the Northern Sea Route may not be more regular until around 2025.

AMSA estimates that regular trans-polar summer transport (four months) will occur towards the middle of the century, from 2040 onwards. When this happens, tremendous shipping benefits would accrue as transiting the Northern Sea Route above Russia between the North Atlantic and the North Pacific would trim about 5,000 nautical miles and a week’s sailing time from that via the Suez Canal and Malacca Strait. Financial savings associated with using this shorter route are estimated at about USD 600,000 per vessel. This may have an adverse impact on existing regional hub ports like Singapore which have long been a nexus of East-West shipping. Despite the threats that could be presented to a transit hub port like Singapore, there are also opportunities which could be capitalised on....

The Swedish icebreaker Oden, shot from NOAA

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