Cold, Hard Realities of Arctic Shipping

MarineLink.com/US Naval Institute
Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Arctic Sea Routes: mage courtesy of UNEP

In a recent article in USNI 'Proceedings Magazine' Stephen M. Carmel said: "Maritime pundits believe a shrinking ice cap translates to a frenzy of traffic as shippers rush to exploit shorter sea routes. They’re wrong." Excerpts follow:

On 16 September 2012 the Arctic reached the point at which ice stops receding and begins to form anew with the approach of winter. Last year that ice minimum set a record at 1.32 million square miles – 300,000 square miles less than the previous record minimum. With that news comes the predictable flood of reports about the pending increase in Arctic shipping, how woefully unprepared the United States is to deal with that onslaught of traffic, and the need for large-scale investment in Arctic capabilities.

Worries about the implications of a thawing Arctic have been around for some time. Conferences and seminars about the Arctic seem to have superseded even piracy as a source of income for the conference-for-profit crowd. There is no doubt that the Arctic is in fact thawing, and there naturally will be increased activity up there. But to formulate appropriate strategy and make intelligent investments it is important to get past the hype and:

• Understand what type of activity is likely to occur
• Determine the time frame in which it is likely to happen
• Recognize that, at least for commercial interests, economics trumps all

Clearly, a great deal can happen in 30 or 40 years, so it is a mistake to try to overlay a melting Arctic on today’s geo-economic situation. It is the state of the world at that future point interacting with a melted Arctic that matters. Already, changes in the patterns of global trade have had significant implications for the utility of Arctic routes. Increasingly expensive labor in China, for example, is pushing Chinese manufacturing to be outsourced to countries in Southeast Asia where costs are lower but Arctic routes offer no advantage.

Carmel concludes that there is no question that the Arctic is becoming more ice-free. There will be an attendant increase in commercial presence in the Arctic that should not be ignored. But a proper understanding of what type of activity there will be, and a realistic assessment of the volume of that activity are necessary to ensure proper policy and investments are made. For commercial shipping, and particularly the types that drive globalization today, Arctic routes do not now offer an attractive alternative to the more traditional maritime avenues, and are highly unlikely to do so in the future.

Source: 'Proceedings Magazine' - July 2013 Vol. 139/7/1,325 - http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2013-07

 

Maritime Reporter February 2015 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

People & Company News

Petrobras Downgrade Shakes Market

Moody's shocked bond investors this week with a surprise two-notch downgrade that put Brazilian oil company Petrobras in junk territory. The move was seen by some investors as overly assertive,

Brightoil Reports Steady Growth in Interim Results

Brightoil Petroleum (Holdings) Limited announced its interim results for the six months ended December 31, 2014, reporting steady growth over the period.   During the period,

Davie Building LNG-powered Ferries

Canadian shipbuilder Davie held a keel laying ceremony for MV Armand-Imbeau II, marking the beginning of the hull assembly for this first of two sisterships under

Arctic Operations

Britain Should Appoint Ambassador to the Arctic

The House of Lords Arctic Committee urged that UK should follow the example set by France, Singapore and Japan and appoint an Ambassador for the Arctic.   The

International Ice Patrol Opens Annual Ice Season

The U.S. Coast Guard International Ice Patrol opened the annual ice season February 3 to detect and track icebergs in the North Atlantic Ocean. The IIP deployed

China Snow Dragon Arctic

The melting Arctic presents a geopolitical challenge and it is the last bit of unclaimed land left on our quickly heating globe. A report in the Worldcrunch analyses

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Standards Navigation Offshore Oil Pipelines Pod Propulsion Salvage Ship Electronics Sonar Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1873 sec (5 req/sec)