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  • The Arctic will be perhaps the single most influential region on earth in the coming

  • century and yet almost no-one even lives there.

  • Eight nations have territory above the Arctic CircleDenmark though their constituent

  • country: Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States, and Canadaand

  • they are all in close quarters.

  • This circle represents the distance a plane can fly in three hours.

  • Most of these countries can reach each other faster than they watch Titanic.

  • Anchorage, Alaska is, in fact, closer to Tromsø, Norway than it is to New York because of the

  • short-cut over the pole.

  • Alert, Canada is so close to Tromsø, Norway that it could be flown by a turboprop plane

  • (Pilatus PC-12 NG.)

  • The only issue is, there's about to be some serious money in the high north.

  • The Arctic ice is melting, there's no question about that.

  • Some may debate the cause of the melt, but one cannot debate that there's simply less

  • ice up north than there was 50 years ago.

  • This melt has profound consequences.

  • Whole countries like Tuvalu and the Maldives could be largely underwater by the end of

  • the century because of the rising sea levels from melting ice.

  • But the melt has a different, more obvious effectwhere there was once ice there's

  • now liquid, navigable water.

  • One of the greatest quests for early explorers was to find a Northwest Passage—a navigable

  • sea route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Canadian Archipelago.

  • It was long thought to be myth until in 1906 Roald Amundsen and his six crew members arrived

  • at Herchel Island, Canada, having successfully completed a three-year voyage from Norway

  • via the new Northwest Passage.

  • The significance of the Northwest Passage is that, until 1914 when the Panama Canal

  • opened, traffic from the Atlantic could only reach the Pacific by sailing around Cape Hornthe

  • southern tip of South America.

  • This meant that a sea route between London and San Francisco—5,000 miles apart as the

  • crow fliestook 14,000 miles.

  • This was not efficient.

  • It was a significant hamper to development to the American west coast.

  • The Northwest passage would've revolutionized maritime tradeif it wasn't covered in ice.

  • Roald Amundsen's ship, the Gjøa, was small enough that it could snake through and slide

  • over ice.

  • Some of the waterways Amundsen took were as few as three feet deepfar too shallow for

  • the increasingly large commercial ships of the time.

  • More than 100 years later, in September of 2013, however, for the very first time, a

  • commercial bulk carrier, the MS Nordic Orion, transited an almost ice-free Northwest Passage

  • on its journey from Vancouver, Canada to Pori, Finland, and this was far from a publicity

  • stunt.

  • This ship saved $80,000 in fuel costs and was able to take 25% more cargo than if it

  • had gone through the Panama Canal.

  • Even thousand passenger cruise ships are now making the journey.

  • Ironically, global warming is actually opening a route that's better for the environment.

  • China is a country with a vested interest in the navigability of the northwest passage.

  • As an economy largely based on manufacturing for the western world, their maritime accessibility

  • has an enormous effect on their national wellbeing.

  • A reduction in time and cost of shipping to the American east coast would renew their

  • competitiveness in the manufacturing industry against emerging rivals such as Vietnam and

  • Bangladesh.

  • As China industrialized largely thanks to its manufacturing industry the standard of

  • living in the country increased which correspondently increased labour costs.

  • China's Maritime Safety Administration, recognizing the imminent explosion in usage,

  • recently published a 356 page guide to navigating the northwest passage and the country has

  • announced plans to send more and more commercial shipping traffic through the passage in the

  • coming summers.

  • The introduction of maritime traffic to the northwest passage could present a significant

  • opportunity for Canada.

  • The northern territories of Canada, through which northwest passage runs, are historically

  • underdeveloped.

  • Less than 120,000 people live in the Yukon, the Northwest territories, and Nunavut.

  • That's less than the population of Saguenay—a town small enough that you probably haven't

  • even heard of itliving in an area larger than the entire country of India.

  • It's not all that surprising considering just how inhospitable the area is, but other

  • places at similar latitudes such as Anchorage, Longyearbyen, and Murmansk have managed to

  • overcome the conditions thanks to the money that can be made in the far north.

  • If a large chunk of the worlds maritime traffic heads through the Canadian north, industry

  • will develop to support these ships.

  • Except, there's a problem.

  • Despite the general friendliness of most of the arctic countries, there are geopolitical

  • issues in the high north.

  • Even more surprisingly, one of them is between the US and Canada.

  • When there's a navigation choke-point restricting certain countries from accessing an ocean,

  • it's convention to declare that waterway an international waterway.

  • For example, the Danish Straitsfully surrounded by Denmarkare an international waterway

  • in order to give the Baltic and Scandinavian countries ocean access; the Turkish straits,

  • fully surrounded by Turkey, are international waterways to give the black sea countries

  • ocean access; and the Danube River is an international waterway to give landlocked Austria, Hungary,

  • Moldova, Serbia, and Slovakia ocean access.

  • When a waterway is declared an international waterway no country can restrict access or

  • charge dues to passing boats except during a time of war.

  • Canada considers the waterways comprising the northwest passage in their archipelago

  • as their own waters.

  • In the past nobody challenged this since there was no reason anyone would cross through these

  • frozen waters.

  • With its promise to cut shipping routes by thousands of miles, the northwest passage

  • will almost certainly become an important shipping route so that's why countries like

  • the US firmly believe that the northwest passage should be and already is an international

  • waterway.

  • One of the tensest moments in history between the US and Canada was when, in 1985, a US

  • Coast Guard Icebreaker travelled through the northwest passage without prior permission

  • from Canada.

  • In Canada's mind, this was a military invasion of their sovereign territorydebatably an

  • act of war.

  • Canada argues that the northwest passage is not an international waterway because it has

  • failed to meet an important criteriausefulness.

  • Of course the northwest passage is useful on paperit shortens the route between the

  • oceansbut Canada has pointed out that in previous cases determining whether a waterway

  • is international, what proves a route's usefulness is if a significant number of ships

  • have already successfully transited it.

  • In the northwest passage's case, the number of successful commercial journeys is in the

  • double digits.

  • There's also merit to Canada's argument that the passage should be their sovereign

  • waters.

  • Currently, Canada has almost no search-and-rescue capabilities in their archipelago.

  • Since there's almost no traffic yet, there's no real reason to spend the money to put ships

  • and aircraft up there.

  • Most previous journeys have been highly coordinated and often escorted by the Canadian Coast Guard.

  • If a ship just went through with no prior coordination nowadays and sank, however, there

  • would be almost no chance of rescue for the victims.

  • If in a few summers hundreds of ships transit the passage, Canada would have an obligation

  • to put resources in the northern provinces for the safety of both the country and sailors

  • and that takes money.

  • If treated as an internal waterway, Canada could charge passage fees just as there are

  • for the Panama or Suez Canalthe other major shipping shortcuts of the world.

  • These could fund the infrastructure needed to safety regulate and police the route.

  • But on the other hand, should one country have the capability to chose who can get from

  • the Pacific to Atlantic faster?

  • Letting, for example, Vietnamese ships through the route but banning Chinese ships would

  • make the Chinese goods uncompetitive for the Western European and Eastern American market.

  • Canada would have the capability to choose which economies can succeed and which will

  • fail.

  • There's a reason the issue's so contentious.

  • Scientists disagree on the exact date, but there's a general consensus that by the

  • year 2050 there will be a summer when there is no ice in the Arctic.

  • This will have enormous and irreversible consequences on our globe, but it could further revolutionize

  • how we get our goods.

  • An ice-free arctic will open up the greatest shipping short-cut in the worldthe Arctic

  • Ocean.

  • Ships traveling between Japan and western Europe, for example, instead of heading south,

  • across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, and across the Mediterranean sea, will

  • be able to head north through the bering strait, directly across the arctic ocean, and down

  • between Greenland and Norway to Europe.

  • That's a 7,000 mile route compared to the 13,000 mile route of today.

  • That has the potential to slash shipping prices in half.

  • That means cheaper products across the entire world.

  • But at what cost.

  • Every degree of climate warming in the US alone is expected to cause $144 billion dollars

  • per year of economic loss.

  • If the US climate warms by 12 degrees, which the EPA says is possible by 2100, the US can

  • expect to lose more than $1.7 trillion per yearthat's more than a full percent of

  • its GDP.

  • On top of that, by 2050, climate change is expected to cause more than 250,000 deaths

  • per year.

  • Surely that can't be worth it for some cheaper goods.

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B1 US passage northwest canada route arctic shipping

Canada's New Shipping Shortcut

  • 1 0
    joey joey posted on 2021/06/10
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