Showing posts with label north-east passage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label north-east passage. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Who Owns the North Pole (Part 69)

"A great chess game is being played with countries staking claims to the Arctic to make sure they are not left out. Climate change is taking place at twice the global average speed in the Arctic. Some countries, like China, are looking 50 years ahead," said Malte Humpert, director of the Washington-based thinktank the Arctic Institute.

 The Arctic has now become a true strategic hot spot at the centre of global interest. The high north embodies high stakes. A paradigm shift in international politics is taking place," said Sturla Henriksen, head of the Norwegian Shipowners' Association.

The city of Nadym, in the extreme north of Siberia, is one of the Earth's least hospitable places, shrouded in darkness for half of the year, with temperatures plunging below -30C and the nearby Kara Sea semi-permanently frozen. Over the next 30 years climate change is likely to open up a polar shipping route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, cutting travel time to Asia by 40% and allowing Russia's vast oil and gas resources to be exported to China, Japan and south Asia much faster. Nadym stands to benefit from a warmer climate more than any other Arctic city – the Russian government plans to connect it by road and rail to other oil and gas centres; Gazprom, the world's largest gas company, is building a port nearby with French oil major Total; and if the new northern sea route is open for even six months of the year. Expectations are high that the route will complement the Suez canal as a key waterway for trade to and from Asia. Sailing trans-arctic from Yokohama to Hamburg would shave 40% off the distance compared to the Suez Canal. Confidence that the Arctic will become economically important is seen in the rush of countries and companies to claim a stake. Eleven countries, including Poland and Singapore, have appointed Arctic ambassadors to promote their national interests.

"The entire centre of gravity of the world economy is shifting to Nadym," said the mayor, Stanislav Shegurov.

 "The Arctic is our home and our future. We will make full use of the northern sea route. We are building infrastructure, we are making history. We have ambitious plans," said Anton Vasiliev, Russian ambassador for the Arctic.

"The Arctic is changing rapidly. It will be our most important foreign policy area.”  said the Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg.

Only 71 large ships, working mostly with Russian icebreakers, navigated the route in 2013, but Russia expects a 30-fold increase in shipping by 2020 and ice-free water over most of its length by 2050. The summer ice has declined by nearly 50% in 40 years and by 2050, say Laurence Smith and Scott Stephenson of the University of California, ordinary vessels should be able to travel easily along the northern sea route and ice-strengthened ships should be able to pass over the pole itself. Gazprom last week launched in South Korea the first of four giant "ice-class" natural gas carriers for the sea route. The Russian government plans to spend more than $3bn reopening a military base on the Novosibirsk Islands and is building new icebreakers and navigational centres. Oil giant Rosneft and ExxonMobile will start drilling for oil in the Kara Sea this year. Norway and the other Nordic countries have all made Arctic development a priority. Finland, which has no access to the northern sea route, has proposed a railway linking its mines to the Russian coast. "Finland needs a new Nokia. The Arctic could be it," said its Arctic affairs ambassador, Hannu Halinen.

American, Canadian, Japanese, South Korean and British companies all intend to use the sea route to mine across the region, but no country hopes to gain more than China, according to Wang Chuanxing, polar researcher at Tongji University, Shanghai. "China's economy is 50% dependent on trade. The development of the northern sea route would have a major impact on its economy. One-third of China's trade is with the EU and the US. The opening of the northern sea route is vital for China," he said. The polar research institute of China said that Arctic shipping would play a major role in the country's future trade, and suggested that, by the year 2020, 5%-15% of China's trade value – about $500bn – could pass through the Arctic.
Japan also hopes to benefit. "Ten per cent of the world's unexploited crude oil and 20% of its natural gas is said to be in the Arctic. Recent changes because of climate change are attracting people in Japan. We want to actively participate. We are researching the Arctic sea route," said Toshio Kunikata, the Japanese ambassador in charge of Arctic affairs.

Taken from here

Friday, December 30, 2011

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 43- China will b uy it

There is no unclaimed land available in the Arctic, because Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States carved up the region centuries ago. But this fact doesn't discourage a resource-hungry China, which knows it can buy the access it needs. China grows hungry for Arctic resources and shipping routes as northern ice melts. China is fully aware of the enormous potential for offshore oil and natural gas development in the Arctic, which holds at least 20 per cent of the world's undiscovered reserves.

Chinese state-owned companies have already invested tens of billions of dollars in Canada's northern tar sands. Three years ago, the Chinese government lent a Russian company $25bn so that it could build an oil pipeline from Siberia to China, which now carries 300,000 barrels per day. Russian oil, natural gas and minerals are also moving eastwards to China via the Northern Sea Route along Siberia's increasingly ice-free Arctic coastline. And soon, natural gas will be shipped to China from two new liquefaction terminals on Canada's northwest coast.

Most of China's oil imports pass through the Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia. In Beijing, this strategic weakness is referred to as the "Malacca dilemma". In addition, some ships loop around Africa to avoid the pirate-infested approaches to the Suez Canal, while others loop around the bottom of South America because they cannot fit into the Panama Canal. Either way, the extra distance adds additional costs - in fuel, salaries and foregone business. In late summer, the Northern Sea Route already enables a 10,000-km shortcut to Europe, while the Northwest Passage through Canada's Arctic islands offers a 7,000-km shortcut to the Atlantic seaboard of the US. With time, a third route may well become available "over the top" across the central Arctic Ocean. These developments are celebrated in China, where the media refer to the Northern Sea Route as the "Arctic Golden Waterway". Professor Bin Yang of Shanghai Maritime University estimates that the Northern Sea Route alone could save China a staggering $60bn to $120bn annually. China already has the world's largest non-nuclear powered icebreaker and is now building a second, smaller vessel. Chinese companies are also building or commissioning dozens of ice-strengthened cargo ships and tankers, some of them with dual-directional technology that enables them to sail normally on open seas, then turn round and use their propellers to chew their way through sea-ice.

Under the law of the sea, the Arctic countries have jurisdiction over that oil and gas because coastal countries have exclusive rights to any natural resource within 200 nautical miles of their coasts. They may also have jurisdiction over seabed resources even further out - if they can demonstrate scientifically that the shape and geology of the ocean floor constitute a "natural prolongation" of the continental shelf. China does not contest these rights, because it relies on the exact same rules to support its extensive claims in the South and East China Seas. Nor is there any need for China to challenge the claims of the Arctic countries. Offshore oil and gas is expensive to find, extract and transport - especially in an extremely remote and often inhospitable region. To access these riches, Arctic countries will need strong markets and vast amounts of capital, both of which China is well positioned to provide.

But beyond the extensive rights of the coastal states, near the centre of the Arctic Ocean, lies an area where the deep seabed constitutes the "common heritage of mankind" and the water column constitutes "high seas". If the central Arctic Ocean becomes the site of economic activity, China will most certainly be a player. At some point, China might wish to explore the deep Arctic Ocean for magnesium nodules or frozen gas hydrates. China is also the world's largest fishing nation, and the Arctic Ocean is closer than some of the places currently frequented by its distant-waters fleet. Coastal states can regulate fishing within 200 nautical miles of their shores, but beyond that distance, regulation only takes place through regional fisheries organisations.

The Chinese government has so far chosen not to take sides in legal disputes between the US on the one hand, and Russia and Canada on the other, over the status of the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage. The US claims they are "international straits", Russia and Canada claim they are "internal waters", and China, it seems, just wants to make money.

In 2009, China applied for permanent observer status at the Arctic Council, a regional organisation composed of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US but then, in 2011, the Arctic Council adopted new criteria for permanent observers, including the condition that they recognise "the Arctic States' right to administer the Arctic Ocean under the Convention of the Law of the Sea". China will likely never accept this condition, which as currently worded, implies that Arctic states have the right to administer the entire Arctic Ocean. In actual fact, China and other non-Arctic countries are fully entitled to navigate freely beyond 12 miles from shore, to fish beyond 200 miles from shore, and to exploit seabed resources that lie beyond the continental shelf.

China is an integral part of the globalised economy and that now includes the North Pole

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".

Saturday, June 18, 2011

who owns the north pole - part 32

Efforts are being made to sign a common treaty on the Arctic citing the kind of treaty on the Antarctic. But experts invariably pointed out that the situation in the Arctic is altogether different. The Antarctic is no man’s land, and there is no economic activity under way there. Meanwhile in the Arctic, some countries border on the ocean, and there are two-way treaties, and international law provisions regulating the situation. The European Union can access the Arctic Ocean via Greenland only. The five countries that border on the Arctic Ocean are the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia. Denmark is an EU member-nation that owns Greenland, - the world’s biggest island. Even the countries with no immediate access to the Arctic Ocean, such countries as Japan and South Korea, technologies are being developed full steam to produce oil and gas from under ice cover.

The Arctic shelf is the area that contains the greatest oil and gas deposits in the world. Oil and gas giants are clearly not about to lose hundreds of billions of dollars in profits. But once power resources are mined, they should be delivered to consumers. The development of technologies, high mineral resource prices and China’s growing market are but some factors that make one think of new ways of transportation. The change of climate is being followed by a major change in logistics. Ice melting in the Arctic opens new ways of navigation, first of all, the Northern Sea Route, which is the shortest link between Europe and Asia, and also between Europe and the US West Coast. The route runs parallel to Russia’s northern coast, so it is likely to become an effective alternative to the Suez Canal some time soon.

In 2009, 70,000 tons of iron ore were for the first time transported to China along the Northern Sea Route, in just 18 days, or half the time that it would take the delivery via the Suez Canal. The suppliers saved 300,000 dollars worth of fuel. In 2011, Russia’s biggest shipping company, Sovkomflot, is due to send 15 ships along the route, which is navigable even in winter, if transport vessels are escorted by icebreakers.

from here

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.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Who Owns the North Pole - part 17

Our Nordic Saga simply carries on and on , as the war drums continue to beat .Further to previous post we now have a Times article reporting that competition for resources in the Arctic Circle could provoke conflict between Russia and Nato, a newly appointed commander at the alliance warned yesterday. Admiral James Stavridis said that military activity and trade routes would be potential sources of competition around the polar cap.

His assessment comes after warnings from Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato Secretary-General, who said this week that climate change had “potentially huge security implications” for Nato. The thinning ice cap is opening up a new Northwest Passage trade route, while it is estimatedthat previously inaccessible oil worth $90 billion (£56 billion) lies beneath ice in the Arctic Circle.

Summer School

Summer School 2017

Summer School 2017  21st – 23rd July Fircroft College, Birmingham   These days, con...