Canada's New Shipping Shortcut - Thanks to global warming

The Arctic will be perhaps the most influential region on the planet for the next century and yet hardly anyone lives there. Eight nations have a territory above the Arctic Circle - Denmark although their home country: Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States and Canada - and they are all close. This circle represents the distance an airplane can travel in three hours. Most of these countries can come together faster than they look at Titanic.


Anchorage, Alaska is actually closer to Tromsø, Norway than New York due to the shortcut over the pole. Alert, Canada is so close to Tromsø, Norway that it could be flown by a turboprop aircraft (Pilatus PC-12 NG.) The only problem is that there will be significant money in the Far North . There is no doubt that the Arctic ice is melting. Some may debate the cause of the melt, but one cannot argue that there is simply less ice in the north than there was 50 years ago. This melting has profound consequences. Whole countries like Tuvalu and the Maldives could be largely underwater by the turn of the century due to rising sea levels from melting ice. But melting has a different, more obvious effect: where there was once ice, there is now liquid, navigable water.

One of the greatest quests of early explorers was to find a Northwest Passage - a navigable sea route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans across the Canadian archipelago. This was long regarded as a 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, Atlantic traffic could only reach the Pacific by sailing around Cape Horn, the southern tip of the 'South America. This meant that a sea route between London and San Francisco, 5,000 miles as the crow flies, took 14,000 miles. It was not efficient. It was a major obstacle to the development of the American West Coast.

The Northwest Passage would have revolutionized maritime commerce if it weren't covered in ice. 

Roald Amundsen's ship, the Gjøa, was small enough to be able to squeeze and glide across the ice. Some of the waterways used by Amundsen were only three feet deep - far too shallow for the larger and larger commercial vessels of the day. Over 100 years later, in September 2013, however, for the first time ever, a commercial bulk carrier, the MS Nordic Orion, passed through a nearly ice-free Northwest Passage on its journey from Vancouver, Canada to Pori, Finland, and it was far from a publicity stunt.

This vessel saved $ 80,000 in fuel and was able to carry 25% more cargo than if it had passed through the Panama Canal.

 Even a thousand cruise ships are now making the trip. Ironically, global warming is actually leading a path that is better for the environment. China is a country with a vested interest in the navigability of the Northwest Passage. As a largely manufacturing-based economy for the western world, their maritime accessibility has a huge effect on their national well-being. A reduction in the time and cost of shipping to the US east coast would renew their competitiveness in the manufacturing industry against emerging rivals such as Vietnam and Bangladesh.

As China industrialized largely through its manufacturing industry, the standard of living in the country increased, which increased labor costs. China's Maritime Safety Administration, recognizing the imminent explosion in use, recently released a 356-page guide to navigating the Northwest Passage and the country has announced plans to send more and more commercial vessel traffic through the passage over the next few summers. The introduction of maritime traffic into the Northwest Passage could present a significant opportunity for Canada.

The territories of northern Canada, crossed by the Northwest Passage, 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 city small enough that you probably haven't even heard of it - living in an area larger than the entire country of India. This is not so surprising considering the inhospitable nature of the region, but other places in similar latitudes, such as Anchorage, Longyearbyen and Murmansk, have managed to overcome the conditions thanks to the money that can be earned in the great North.

If much of the world's marine traffic passes through Canada's North, the industry will grow to support these ships.

 Except, there is a problem. Despite the general friendliness of most Arctic countries, there are geopolitical issues in the High North. Even more surprisingly, one of them is between the United States and Canada. When a navigation choke point prevents certain countries from accessing an ocean, it is agreed to declare that waterway as an international waterway. For example, the Danish Strait - entirely surrounded by Denmark - is an international waterway in order to allow the Baltic and Scandinavian countries to access the ocean; the straits of Turkey, entirely surrounded by Turkey, are international waterways allowing the countries of the Black Sea to access the ocean; and the Danube is an international waterway that allows landlocked Austria, Hungary, Moldova, Serbia and Slovakia to access the ocean.

When a waterway is declared an international waterway, no country can restrict access or impose charges on passing vessels, except in time of war. Canada considers the waterways comprising the Northwest Passage of its archipelago as its own waters. In the past, no one has disputed this because there was no reason for anyone to cross these frozen waters. With its promise to cut shipping lanes by thousands of miles, the Northwest Passage will almost certainly become an important shipping lane, which is why countries like the United States firmly believe that the Northwest Passage should. be and already is an international waterway.

One of the most difficult times in US-Canadian history was when in 1985 a US Coast Guard icebreaker crossed the Northwest Passage without prior permission. from Canada. In Canada's mind, this was a military invasion of their sovereign territory - a questionable act of war. Canada argues that the Northwest Passage is not an international waterway because it does not meet an important criterion - utility.

Of course, the Northwest Passage is useful on paper - it shortens the route between oceans - but Canada has pointed out that in previous cases, in determining whether a waterway is international, proving the usefulness of a route is if a significant number of ships have already successfully transited it. In the case of the Northwest Passage, the number of successful trade trips is in double digits. Canada's argument that the passage should be its sovereign waters is also valid. Currently, Canada has virtually no search and rescue capability in its archipelago. Since there is hardly any traffic yet, there is no real reason to spend money on installing ships and planes there. Most previous trips have been highly coordinated and often escorted by the Canadian Coast Guard.

If a ship passed these days without prior coordination and sank, there would be almost no chance of rescue for the victims.

 If, in a few summers, hundreds of ships were passing through the passage, Canada would have the obligation to put resources in the northern provinces for the safety of the country and of the sailors and that takes money. If treated as an inland waterway, Canada could charge rights of way just as there are for the Panama or Suez Canal, the world's other major shipping shortcuts. These could fund the infrastructure needed to regulate safety and monitor the route.

But on the other hand, should a country have the ability to choose who can move from the Pacific to the Atlantic faster? 

For example, allowing Vietnamese ships to pass but banning Chinese ships would make Chinese goods uncompetitive in Western European and East American markets. Canada would have the ability to choose which economies can succeed and which will fail. There is a reason the issue is so controversial. Scientists don't agree on the exact date, but there is a general consensus that by 2050 there will be an ice-free summer in the Arctic.

This will have huge and irreversible consequences on our planet, but it could still revolutionize the way we get our goods. An ice-free Arctic will open the world's greatest navigation shortcut: the 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. across the Bering Strait, directly across the Arctic Ocean, and between Greenland and Norway to Europe. It's a 7,000 mile route compared to today's 13,000 mile route.

 It could halve the shipping prices. 

This means cheaper products around the world. But at what cost. Each degree of global warming in the United States alone is expected to cause $ 144 billion a year in economic losses. If the American climate warms by 12 degrees, which the EPA says is possible by 2100, the United States can expect to lose more than $ 1.7 trillion a year, or more than one percent of their GDP. In addition, by 2050, climate change is expected to cause more than 250,000 deaths per year. Certainly not worth it for some cheaper products.

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