Showing posts with label North-West Passage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label North-West Passage. Show all posts

Friday, August 26, 2011

who owns the north pole - part 39

Two major Arctic shipping routes have opened as summer sea ice melts, satellites have found. The European Space Agency's Envisat shows both Canada's Northwest Passage and Russia's Northern Sea Route open simultaneously.

Shipping companies are already eyeing the benefits these routes may bring if they remain open regularly. A number of major shipping companies are looking to the opening of these routes to shorten journey times and make their businesses more efficient. The Northern Sea Route has been free enough of ice this month for a succession of tankers carrying natural gas condensate from the northern port of Murmansk to sail along the Siberian coast en route for Thailand.

"But this time they've really been open, with a proper Suez-size tanker going through the Northern Sea Route with a full cargo - that's a real step forward" observed Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice expert from the University of Cambridge.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Who owns the North Pole - Pt. 34 - Greenland?

As rising temperatures expose more land for exploration, prospectors are rushing to the far north in the hope of carving out a new mineral frontier. The Arctic was largely off-limits because much of the land was considered unworkable. Global warming has changed that. More and more is becoming ice-free. Increasing amount of seaborne traffic is beginning to move on the so-called Northern Sea Route which traverses the Siberian coast. There are also hopes of opening up more of the North West Passage above Canada. New mining applications are being submitted for extraction, all the way from Canada through Greenland to Finland. The South Pole is the subject of an Antarctic treaty but there is no similar arrangement for the far north. But most states around the Arctic are not keen to have their hands tied by an international agreement of this kind.

"An active growth of oil and gas exploration in the [arctic] region may become a death sentence for its environment. The natural world of these northern seas is so sensitive and so vulnerable that even a slightest breach in its structure can lead to consequences no one will be able to reverse," a 2007 report concluded.

Greenland's government pressed ahead with new offshore licence awards to major companies including Shell, ConocoPhilips and Norway's Statoil. Ove Karl Berthelsen, Greenland's minister for industry and mineral resources, makes clear his country's motivation at a time when it is trying to break away from overall political control by Denmark: "The result of the licensing round is an important step towards achieving a sustainable economy for Greenland." Greenland, whose population is 80% Inuit, has recently won a measure of self-rule from its traditional colonial masters, Denmark. The new government in Nuuk is desperately keen to win complete independence and understands this is impossible while the country is dependent on financial handouts from Copenhagen. The Greenland government in Nuuk has just underlined its commitment to new ventures by repealing a law that prevented any kind of uranium mining. The law have been amended to grant exploration licences for radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium. Henrik Stendal, head of the geology department at the Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum in Nuuk says "global warming is good for Greenland."

Promises to Linkgive lots of work or money to local communities: people tend to say 'yes' to these things without necessarily thinking them through the consequences. Ove Gudmestad, a professor of marine and Arctic technology at the University of Stavanger in Norway said local people were rightly wary that they could get sucked into a legal dispute that could last for decades and for which the oil companies are far better prepared and resourced.

Richard Shepherd, chairman of the specialist oil consultancy, Petrologica, believes there is a strong political momentum behind increased polar exploration that extends way beyond the boundaries of Greenland. He says: "Arctic oil and gas is on the strategic agenda due to fear of energy dependence and fear of absolute shortages. Energy security is now synonymous with national security in the US – as it is with China". This, combined with rising prices means the pressure to exploit the Arctic's oil wealth will only increase.

Britain's richest man is planning a giant new opencast mine 300 miles inside the Arctic Circle in a bid to extract a potential $23bn (£14bn) worth of iron ore. The "mega-mine" – which includes a 150km railway line and two new ports – is believed to be the largest mineral extraction project in the Arctic and highlights the huge commercial potential of the far north as global warming makes industrial development in the region easier. The company has just spent nearly $600m (£373m) alongside a US private equity firm buying Baffinland Iron Mines, to seize control and develop the Mary river deposits in the Nunavut region of the Canadian Arctic. The world's biggest steel-making group, ArcelorMittal, admits the operations will be undertaken in an area inhabited by unique wildlife including polar bear, narwhal and walrus. The company admits any large diesel spill "would have significant environmental effects".

Monday, March 21, 2011

who owns north pole - part 27- now Germany joins in

As the Arctic ice melts, Germany wants to make sure its scientists gain unfettered access to the region. They have been hindered by the Russians, and other Arctic nations have been hesitant to cooperate. But Berlin also has its eyes on the bigger North Pole booty: natural resources and sea routes.

What happens in the Arctic in the coming years and decades is everyone's business. The Far North has a decisive impact on the climate of the entire planet. Temperatures in the region are rising at higher rates than elsewhere in the world, which affects people and the environment far away from the Arctic. The German scientists' data are urgently necessary to understand these changes.
"This is why we need access to allow our scientists to move about and work throughout the entire Arctic," says polar scientist Lochte. She is now getting prominent support for her demand. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, a member of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), is hosting an international conference on the Arctic in Berlin on Thursday, where the key topic will be future polar research.

However, unfettered access for scientists isn't the only interest Germany is pursuing in the Arctic. From fish to natural resources to shipping routes, the region is of great interest for Germany, according to officials at the Foreign Ministry. The diplomats are worried that the five countries bordering the Arctic -- Russia, Canada, the United States, Norway and Denmark -- plan to divide up the previously ice-covered ocean among themselves. They argue that there is a risk that the Arctic could be completely nationalized when the sea ice melts, providing access to the sea floor. Germany argue, however, that Germany and other countries should also be given a say in what happens in the region. Natural resources that will become much more accessible when the Arctic ice melts are of critical importance for a high-tech country. A similar argument holds true for the possibility of transporting German goods to Asia through the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route off the Russian coast. Germany wants the five countries bordering the Arctic to recognize that other countries have an interest in using the Arctic. For this reason, a representative of China, which pursues interests similar to Germany's, was also invited to the Berlin conference.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

who owns the North Pole - Part 26

Canadians have adopted a confrontational stance. A new opinion poll finds that Canadians are generally far less receptive to negotiation and compromises on disputes than their American neighbours. More than 40 per cent of Canadians said the country should pursue a firm line in defending its sections of the North, compared to just 10 per cent of Americans.

The international survey – conducted by EKOS Research for the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation – found that a majority of Canadians see Arctic sovereignty as the country’s top foreign-policy priority; they also believe military resources should be shifted to the North, even if it means taking them away from global conflicts.

Harper has made the Arctic a major political platform, taking every opportunity to remind Canadians that his government is determined to defend this country’s sovereignty in the Far North. The poll’s findings would suggest that Canadians have embraced his rhetoric.

“It is something that allows him to play the nationalism card, particularly since it resonates with the population,” said Brian MacDonald, a senior defence analyst with the Conference of Defence Associations.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 24

The Obama administration, like the Bush one before it, has identified the Arctic as an area of key strategic interest. The U.S. military anticipates the Arctic will become "ice-free" for several summer weeks by 2030, possibly as early as 2013. The U.S. Arctic is melting quickly because of accelerated climate change. The prospect of newly thawed sea lanes and a freshly accessible, resource-rich seabed has nations jockeying for position. And government and military officials are concerned the United States is not moving quickly enough to protect American interests in this vulnerable and fast-changing region. The Arctic is believed to hold nearly a quarter of the world's untapped natural resources and a new passage could shave as much as 40 percent of the time it takes for commercial shippers to travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

"We're not doing OK," said Lt. Cmdr. Nahshon Almandmoss "We definitely don't have the infrastructure available to operate for an extended period of time in the Arctic in the summer, much less in the winter when it's more critical for logistical purposes."

In a report last September, the Government Accountability Office said the Coast Guard lacks adequate infrastructure or equipment in the Arctic.

"With 20 percent of the yet-to-be-discovered oil, gas and minerals remaining in the world in the Arctic, the U.S. can't risk losing it," said Rear Adm. Christopher C. Colvin, commander of Alaska's 17th Coast Guard District, from Anchorage.

The Arctic nations - Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States - have been preparing to claim larger chunks of territory under a clause in the treaty that governs the world's waters. Non-Arctic nations like China and South Korea also have been eyeing the economic potential in the far north. The only international treaty that applies to the Arctic is the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, ratified by more than 150 nations. But although it helped draft the convention and subsequent revisions, the United States has not ratified the treaty; conservatives say it impinges on U.S. national sovereignty. Under the treaty, a nation that can prove its continental shelf extends past the current boundary of 200 miles off its coastline can be granted up to 150 additional miles of seabed. Like other Arctic countries, the United States is gathering scientific evidence for its claim to an extended continental shelf in the Arctic. Russia has been preparing a territory claim that would absorb nearly half of the Arctic into its possession

"An extra 150 miles of shelf can be billions or trillions of dollars in resources," said Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, commander of Alaskan Command, Joint Task Force Alaska, Alaskan North American Defense Region and the 11th Air Force.

In 2007, Russia planted a flag in the waters below the North Pole. Canada planted one nearby soon after. Denmark placed its flag on the north's contested Han Island (which Canada promptly removed and delivered back to Danish officials.) America and Canada cooperated on scientific and military operations last summer. Canada bought fleets of F-35 fighter jets and is building a new base along its Arctic coast. Russia is building new icebreakers and new nuclear-power stations on its north coast.

Nations are taking steps to position themselves.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Who Owns the North Pole -Part 20

Some may wonder why Socialist Courier continues to report on the situation in the Arctic Circle . In fact , it is a good example of how a once pristine undeveloped region has grown in strategic and military importance when raw materials and natural resources become accessible to capitalist nation states. The capitalist rivalries are high-lighted in an unambiguous way .

Fresh tensions between Canada and Russia emerged Wednesday after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told a session of his Security Council that his country must be prepared to defend its claims to Arctic mineral riches. Medvedev predicted climate change will spark further conflicts as ice melts, exposing new areas for exploration."Other polar nations already have taken active steps to expand their scientific research as well as economic and even military presence in the Arctic," he told a session of the presidential Security Council.

"Regrettably, we have seen attempts to limit Russia's access to the exploration and development of the Arctic mineral resources," he said. "That's absolutely inadmissible from the legal viewpoint and unfair given our nation's geographical location and history."

In a direct response, Canada said it would reassert its sovereignty over the Far North.

"Canada's sovereignty over lands, islands and waters of the Canadian Arctic is long-standing, well-established and based on historical title," Catherine Loubier, spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, told The Canadian Press.
"This government is dedicated to fulfilling the North's true potential as a healthy, prosperous and secure region within a strong and sovereign Canada. We take our responsibility for the future of the region seriously."

Loubier noted that Canada has committed to building a "world-class" High Arctic research station, will continue to map "our northern resources and waters," and is taking action to reduce pollution and increase marine safety. The government has also announced a new fleet of Arctic patrol ships, a deep water port, and is expanding and re-equipping the Canadian Rangers.

Interest in the Arctic region has intensified in recent years as global warming thaws waterways once choked with ice almost year-round and makes hydrocarbon deposits under the Arctic Ocean increasingly accessible. Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway all scramble to lay claim to parts of the underwater territory in the region, which is estimated to hold more than a quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves.Scott Borgerson from the US Council for Foreign Relations is quoted as saying the north coast of Alaska may soon "resemble the coast of Louisiana, lit by the lights of ships and oil rigs." Borgerson predicts that some Alaskan ports may become a new Singapore.a single Chinese container ship using the Northwest Passage instead of the Panama Canal could save $2 million each way between Shanghai and New York. "Up to 25% of the Earth's shipping may, in our lifetime, be sailing the polar route," according to Politics Daily.

A leading Inuit group protested not being invited to an Arctic foreign ministers meeting just outside of Ottawa on March 29. Duane Smith, head of the Canadian branch of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, which lobbies for the interests of northern peoples, said his group asked to join the talks, but was rebuffed .
"Anything and everything they're going to discuss . . . is going to affect the Inuit in one way or another. We're the ones who are living right in that area, so that's why we think we should be involved as well," Smith said.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 19

Further to our continuing Arctic saga we now read that China has decided it too cannot be side-lined.

China has no Arctic coast and therefore no sovereign rights to underwater continental shelves, and is not a member of the Arctic Council which determines Arctic policies.Officially, the country's research remains largely focused on the environmental challenges of a melting Arctic.

"However, in recent years Chinese officials and researchers have started to also assess the commercial, political and security implications for China of a seasonally ice-free Arctic region," Linda Jakobson , a Stockholm International Peace Research Institute researcher, said."The prospect of the Arctic being navigable during summer months, leading to both shorter shipping routes and access to untapped energy resources, has impelled the Chinese government to allocate more resources to Arctic research,"

Last year Beijing approved the building of a new high-tech polar expedition research icebreaker, to set sail in 2013. China already owns the world's largest non-nuclear icebreaker.

Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States are already at odds over how to divvy up the Arctic riches, claiming overlapping parts of the region -- estimated to hold 90 billion untapped barrels of oil -- and wrangling over who should control the still frozen shipping routes.
"Despite its seemingly weak position, China can be expected to seek a role in determining the political framework and legal foundation for future Arctic activities" Jakobson said.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

who owns the north pole - part 18

The Northwest Passage should have a more Canadian name to assert Canada's claim over the Arctic waterway, says Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell.Bagnell presented a motion in the House of Commons this week, calling on the government to rename the route the Canadian Northwest Passage or the Canadian Arctic Passage.A name change could make to clear to the rest of the world that the Northwest Passage is part of Canada, Bagnell said.
"We claim it to be part of our internal waters, which gives us a lot more authority and control over it," he told CBC News

The United States and Europe have claimed that the Northwest Passage is an international waterway, while Canada has held its position that it's an internal passage.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Who owns the North Pole - Part 13

The saga of the Arctic continues with this report from the BBC that a senior US Coast Guard commander has warned of the risk of conflict in the Arctic, unless disputes over international borders are resolved.

"The potential is there with undetermined boundaries and great wealth for conflict, or competition.There's always a risk of conflict," Rear Admiral Brookes said. He added that this was especially the case "where you do not have established, delineated, agreed-upon borders".

Russia is staking the largest claim to the Arctic but Denmark, Norway, Canada and the United States are all involved in border disputes as well . Even China is deploying a research ship to within 200 miles of the North Pole.

The US Coast Guard mounted a pilot operation to Alaska's Arctic coast this summer. Training exercises included search and rescue, and the protection of oil and gas installations, and plans are now being drawn up for permanent bases

Socialist Courier will continue to follow this development of a virgin territory becoming an area of economic and military rivalry due to its valuable natural resources becoming viable and exploitable .

Monday, August 18, 2008

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 12

Committed to keeping our readers updated on the competition for the Arctic and North Pole regions that has become viable for economic exploitation due to global warming , Socialist Courier reads that a growing array of military leaders, Arctic experts and lawmakers say the United States is losing its ability to patrol Arctic waters . The Pentagon’s Pacific Command, Northern Command and Transportation Command strongly recommended in a letter that the Joint Chief of Staff endorse a push by the Coast Guard to increase the country’s ability to gain access to and control its Arctic waters. The letter from the three military commands to the Joint Chiefs last spring said reliable icebreakers were essential to controlling northern waters and to maintaining American research stations in Antarctica. But the Arctic was clearly the commands’ biggest concern, with the letter citing “climate change and increasing economic activity” as reasons for upgrading the icebreaker fleet.

Adm. Thad W. Allen, the commandant of the Coast Guard, who toured Alaska's Arctic shores two weeks ago with the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, said that whatever mix of natural and human factors is causing the ice retreats, the Arctic is clearly opening to commerce — and potential conflict and hazards — like never before.

Meantime, a resurgent Russia has been busy expanding its fleet of large ocean-going icebreakers to around 14, launching a conventional icebreaker in May and last year, the world's largest icebreaker named 50 Years of Victory, the newest of its seven nuclear-powered, pole-hardy ships. At the same time, the Russians are developing the means to build offshore platforms that can move from field to field, can withstand the new ice conditions of the North and can condense gas on site to a liquefied state ready to be loaded on to carriers. Only the Russians are currently developing ways to ship both oil and gas from Arctic offshore platforms.
But surely the major North American companies must now be looking at the possibility of using a similar system. If they are built on the American side of the Arctic, Canada can expect the sovereignty crisis of 1969 and 1970 to be renewed. There have been no changes in either the American or Canadian position about the passage of tankers through the Northwest Passage. If the Americans develop a shipping capability and decide to send their vessels to the east, they would need to go through Canadian waters. They would probably not be any more willing to ask Canada's permission than they were in 1969.
On the other hand, if the extraction platforms are placed on the Canadian side — and the ice-capable tankers leave from Canadian locations — there will be no sovereignty problem, but Canada will still have a problem of control. Our ability to assert control in our northern waters is limited. Canada's Coast Guard's icebreaking fleet is small and aging; its navy has a very limited ability to go north. The current Canadian government has promised to build six to eight naval Arctic offshore patrol vessels and to replace the largest and oldest Coast Guard icebreakers.
"To be able to protect the Arctic archipelago properly, the waters have to be considered our internal waters. Nobody recognizes that. In order to enforce our position, we need tools to do that," said retired colonel Pierre Leblanc, former commander of the Canadian Forces' Northern Area.

There are already more than 400 oil and gas fields north of the Arctic Circle. Shell has quietly spent $2bn (£1bn) acquiring drilling leases off Alaska. ExxonMobil and BP have spent huge sums on exploration rights off Canada. The US government lifted a 17-year ban on offshore drilling to make the US less reliant on imports. The powers that border the Arctic – Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway and Denmark – have begun jostling for advantage. the United States Geological Survey – suggesting that the region contains about one-third of the world's undiscovered gas and about one-sixth of its undiscovered oil

Monday, October 08, 2007

Who owns the North Pole - Part 9

Reported by the BBC , in another sign of potential friction in the warming Arctic, Canada has warned that it will step up patrols of the North West Passage . Canada maintains the waterway that connects the Atlantic with the Pacific lies within its territorial waters and that it can bar transit there. The retreating ice, coupled with rising costs of petroleum, has set off maneuvering among nations bordering the Arctic as each attempts to extend claims to the continental shelf where oil might be found.

The Canadian Coast Guard is preparing to send one its research vessels, the Amundsen, through the North West Passage with about 40 scientists on board. Equipped with a remotely operated robot submarine and a sonar system, the ship will undertake a detailed survey of the sea-bed - essential if the waterway is to become more open to commercial shipping.
Bush is pushing the Senate to ratify a long-spurned high seas treaty that has gained new relevance with the melting of the polar ice cap and anticipated competition for the oil that lies below. Ex-President Reagan opposed the treaty because of a section dealing with deep seabed mining. Even after that section was overhauled in 1994 to satisfy U.S. concerns and President Clinton signed it, Congress has showed little interest in ratification. Opponents say it would impinge on U.S. military and economic sovereignty.
But , "Far from threatening our sovereignty, the convention allows us to secure and extend our sovereign rights," said the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Sen. Joseph Biden

And "Currently, as a nonparty, the United States is not in a position to maximize its sovereign rights in the Arctic or elsewhere," Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte said.
Paul Kelly, a former vice president of an oil drilling company, now president of Kelly Energy Consultants in Houston expects "substantial" additions to U.S. territory once the United States joins the treaty.