-
Advertorial
-
FOCUS
-
Guide
-
Lifestyle
-
Tech and Vogue
-
TechandScience
-
CHTF Special
-
Nanhan
-
Futian Today
-
Hit Bravo
-
Special Report
-
Junior Journalist Program
-
World Economy
-
Opinion
-
Diversions
-
Hotels
-
Movies
-
People
-
Person of the week
-
Weekend
-
Photo Highlights
-
Currency Focus
-
Kaleidoscope
-
Tech and Science
-
News Picks
-
Yes Teens
-
Fun
-
Budding Writers
-
Campus
-
Glamour
-
News
-
Digital Paper
-
Food drink
-
Majors_Forum
-
Speak Shenzhen
-
Business_Markets
-
Shopping
-
Travel
-
Restaurants
-
Hotels
-
Investment
-
Yearend Review
-
In depth
-
Leisure Highlights
-
Sports
-
World
-
QINGDAO TODAY
-
Entertainment
-
Business
-
Markets
-
Culture
-
China
-
Shenzhen
-
Important news
在线翻译:
szdaily -> Opinion
‘Ice Silk Road’ of significance
    2017-December-4  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

Winton Dong

dht0620@126.com

FOR many centuries, the Arctic Ocean has captured the imagination of explorers because of the possibility it offers for traveling between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans through the Bering Strait.

Until recently, sea ice has blocked access to the potential shortcut between Asia and North America or Europe. But in the past years, the ice has begun to melt in late summer, so as to allow passage for freight ships. In 2012, a total of 46 voyages successfully crossed the Arctic Ocean. The Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon was among one of the first major vessels to travel through the strait in 2012.

While meeting with Russian Prime Minster Dmitry Medvedev in July this year, President Xi Jinping urged the two countries to carry out cooperation on the Northeast Route of the Arctic Ocean in order to realize an “Ice Silk Road.” The route is also called Northern Sea Route by Russia.

The Arctic maritime routes include two major lanes. Besides the above-mentioned Northeast Sea Route which principally goes along the coast of north Siberia and Norway, the Northwestern Sea Route goes along the northern coast of North America via waterways of the Canadian Archipelago.

In contrast with traditional international shipping routes going through Suez Canal, Panama Canal or the Strait of Malacca, the Arctic routes largely avoid territorial waters and mainly lie in international high seas, making them of special geopolitical significance to all countries looking towards the Arctic region as a future trade channel.

Melting sea ice has spurred more commercial traffic globally. As the world’s biggest developing country, China surely wants to become more active in the region. The Arctic routes will increase the importance of Chinese ports, especially those in northern China, such as Dalian and Tianjin. At present, major Chinese ports are concentrated in its southeastern coastal areas such as Guangdong, Zhejiang and Shanghai, so the Arctic routes will help balance the country’s port development. With the Northeast Route as an example, it is the shortest course for many regions in China. Sailing distance between ports in North China and Western Europe, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea via the Northeast Route, is 25 to 55 percent shorter than the traditional shipping routes via the Strait of Malacca. Shorter distance means lower costs and more profit. According to insiders, if all Chinese vessels could use the Arctic routes, about US$100 billion of freight fees would be saved every year.

As a powerful country next to the Arctic Ocean, Russia surely has many advantages in exploring the polar region. The development of vast and frigid Siberia is a hard nut for Russia. With most of the route hugging Russia’s northern coast, if the Northeast Route can be built with international efforts, it will greatly mitigate the financial burden on Russia and enhance the infrastructure construction of Siberia. Moreover, the Arctic shipping routes will also boost opportunities for cooperation among other nearby nations such as Canada, Norway, Finland and Denmark.

Every coin has two sides. While drawing a blueprint for further development, shipping companies all over the world would most likely be deterred by the unpredictable nature of the Arctic Ocean, its high seasonal variability of ice conditions, total absence of infrastructure, relatively shallow water, lack of modern mapping and increased insurance costs. The lack of international regulation should also be put into consideration. Canada considers that the Northwest Route crosses its waters, although many countries believe it is open to international navigation.

Everything is hard in the beginning. Currently only navigated by heavy icebreakers, shipping lanes through the Arctic Ocean won’t put the Suez and Panama canals and other traditional sea passages out of business soon, but global warming will make these frigid maritime routes much more accessible than ever imagined.

Due to the increasing decline of Arctic sea ice extent in summer, I am confident that such routes will be slated to emerge as the predominant shipping lines by the year of 2030.

(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)

深圳报业集团版权所有, 未经授权禁止复制; Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.
Shenzhen Daily E-mail:szdaily@szszd.com.cn