Next Stop Arctic

ice_warming-420x0The receding arctic ice has not only given hope about earlier forbidden but soon navigable trade routes but also it has stirred abundant geopolitics among the world community. The possibility of opening up of Arctic’s maritime shortcuts in next decade has caught the fancy of every nation.

 

 

In the spotlight are the Northwest Passage along north Canada and Alaska, and the Northern Sea Route (NSR) passing along Russian arctic coast.  NSR has an edge over the former, because it comes under direct administration of Russia making it dispute free and certainly more developed than the Northwest Passage. Nonetheless Russia’s exclusivity claim, oozing out of its policies, are stirring up other nations who would prefer it to be international route unlike its current counterparts Suez and Panama.

 

The attempt to reap the maximum benefits from this potential trade route is ushering in a new era of polar strategies. Japan which has an advantage in terms of its location as a potential hub port is encouraging innovations in vessels that could withstand the rigours of an arctic journey. Similarly, China’s export hungry economy is to gain from navigable NSR. Its enthusiasm could be seen in increased investment in arctic research as well as instances of Chinese corporates planning to invest in Icelandic real estate. China and South Korea have become the new power houses of robust maritime resources and key players.

 

The ice free arctic beholds great opportunities for industries like shipping, energy, fishing, tourism etc. On the downside, a solely Russian controlled NSR is prone to become a smuggling haven for drug and human traffickers. Hence this course, if not tread carefully, could play devil in disguise. One question is that can the world community use this trade opportunity while balancing the environment? Well the resolution of the world community to establish extremely strict trade and environmental standards along with restricting access to energy and fishing industries will go a long way to keep illicit activities at bay.

 

The arctic council consists of USA, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Denmark (Greenland and the Faroe Island) and has been in charge of Arctic’s coordination and politics till now. Russia and Canada being the two largest arctic nations are in favour of maintaining this status quo. However nations like China, Germany etc. are in favour of declaring Arctic as common heritage of humankind to reduce Russia’s monopoly over NSR.

 

Navigable arctic could reduce the cargo transit time and cost by almost half between Europe and Asia, making it the most coveted space in the future. The world will have to find a sustainable way to wisely use these newly emerging trade routes to maximum advantage of all.

 

 

 

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