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'The possession of Siberia's natural wealth has become vital in determining Russia’s position in the world'

A revolution in trade to Europe is beginning on the roof of Siberia

By 0 and 0 and 0
11 August 2013


It is the first time a Chinese merchant ship has travelled to Europe via the Arctic Northeast Passage. Picture: Sergey Anisimov

Cosco Shipping - part of China's state-owned shipping giant Cosco Group - announced its maiden voyage with a multi-purpose vessel last week. 

'The ship left Dalian port in Northeast China's Liaoning province and is scheduled to take 33 days to reach Europe,' reported China Daily. 

'It is the first time a Chinese merchant ship has travelled to Europe via the Arctic Northeast Passage. The total deadweight tonnage of the multipurpose vessel is 19,461 tons. The ship is expected to arrive in the Bering Strait on August 25'.

The route traverses the Bering Strait, the East Siberian Sea and the Vilkitsky Strait - between the Taimyr Peninsula and Bolshevik Island in the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago, connecting the Kara and Laptev Seas. 

The North East Passage - with a distance of 2,936 nautical miles (5,437 kilometres) is seen as 'most economic route', said China Daily. The polar route has become accessible because of climate change: and China Daily sets out some compelling statistics as to the trade benefits for a country that remains the world's largest exporter, with 90% of its trade carried by sea.

North East sea passage

Icebreaker '50 Years Since Victory' escorting the 'Beluga Fraternity' and 'Beluga Foresight' along the North East  passage. Picture: Beluga Group

'Once the new passage is opened, it will change the market pattern of the global shipping industry because it will shorten the maritime distance significantly among the Chinese, European and North American markets," Qi Shaobin, a professor at Dalian Maritime University, was quoted as saying.

He forecast major ports such as Dandong, Yingkou, Qinhuangdao and Tianjin would benefit from the new routes, and especially those in the northeast of the country with China's trade projected to grow to $7.6 trillion by 2020, according to the Polar Research Institute of China forecasts.

Han Yichao, an industrial analyst with Changjiang Securities Co, was reported as saying that if 10 percent of China's trade was shipped through the Arctic routes by then, the value could be worth $683 billion.

Cosco Shipping believe 'the opening of the Northeast Passage has significant commercial potential, in particular under current global economic conditions'.

Crucially, the northern route to Europe along Siberia's shoreline, 'could cut shipping times between Asian and European ports by about one-third. 

'More importantly, the new route will offer favourable opportunities to all Cosco Group's shipping business during the currently sluggish period because it will cut operating costs, fuel consumption and carbon emissions' - according to the company.

North East sea passage

All numbers calculated by Frédéric Lasserre in SIG Mapinfo, except the numbers for the Northeast Passage through the Kara Strait south of Novaya Zemlya which have been calculated in Google Earth by Svend Aage Christensen. Picture: Danish Institute for Internatiobal Studies

A year ago we reported how Chinese  icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, docked in Iceland after a pioneering voyage that could have huge implications for the country's trade with Europe.

'This is the first Chinese ship to sail this route, and of course it is important because it's a more than 40 percent shorter route to Europe,' said Icelandic scientist Egill Thor Nielsson, who was on board of the icebreaker.

'It took almost ten days to sail from the East Siberian Sea and through the Barents Sea, and during that time there was real pack ice for only seven days.'

Expedition leader Huigen Yang, head of the Polar Research Institute of China, said: 'To our astonishment ... the most part of the Northern Sea Route is open'.

Comments (3)

Passing South of Novaya Zemlya makes sense only in winter and early spring with icebreaker assistance.
In 2013 there has been less ice on the straight route Murmansk-Vilkitsky north of Novaya Zemlya.

Vilkitsky Strait will always be fine for Russian/Siberian traffic, however it is going to be replaced, at least in the window July through early October, for international traffic, by the more direct route north of Severnaya Zemlya.

Two sets of distances should be computed for the Northern Route, one along Siberian coast, another in high seas. Warm water inflow from Atlantic Ocean is making the difference about Arctic ice.
Massimo, Italy
01/09/2013 14:28
The Glonass positioning system should be ready to offer the best information about the Artic, including icebergs and other relevant data.

Better than Delian, the Heilongjiang province of China, which capital is Harbin, can use the port of Vladivostok, which avoids the Korean Peninsula, saving hundreds of miles to the Artic route.

Apart from that, Vladivostok is obviously closer to Harbin than Delian.
Enrique, Spain
23/08/2013 09:21
The route can be even shorter if Lake Taymyr was used instead of the Vilkitsky Strait...and more secure.
Enrique, Spain
12/08/2013 07:23

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