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Post Info TOPIC: The North-East Passage and how it will effect future shipping with Climate Change


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The North-East Passage and how it will effect future shipping with Climate Change
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FIRST POSTED SEPTEMBER 23, 2009

If climate change can have a silver lining, then some optimists might argue that it probably lies in the Northeast Passage. Last week two German cargo ships sailed part of its course, making their way along Russia's Arctic coast from South Korea to Siberia, passing through the Bering Strait, with an ease that would have been unthinkable before local sea ice began to feel the heat of global warming.

Already speculation is rife that this heralds the advent of a major new shipping route, running through waters that are expected to eventually become ice-free for much of the year round. This route, it is said, will link Europe with booming Asian markets, slashing distances and journey times through the Suez and Panama Canals by as much as a third. Shippers could then pass their savings onto customers, who would benefit from lower prices in the high street.

Russia could block ships that belong to states that dont toe the Moscow lineThe political price of an active Northeast Passage, however, may not be quite so attractive. For what no one has noticed is that it would effectively become a maritime, commercial pipeline - and the story of how the Kremlin views and uses its pipelines elsewhere is by now a highly familiar one.

Moscow would benefit from this commercial pipeline in the Arctic Ocean in two distinct ways. On the one hand it could potentially charge exorbitant transit revenues - thinly disguised as 'icebreaker fees', even when such escort is unnecessary - on ships that move through what it regards as its own 'national waters'. Earlier this year, Russia was levying an extortionate $16 fee on every ton of oil cargo, compared with the meagre $1 that Finland charged Baltic shipping.

But more importantly, the Russians could potentially use the Passage as a political bargaining chip, threatening to block or impede the movement of ships that belong to states that don't toe the Moscow line. Russia has never shied from using trade sanctions as a political tool - imposing wine sanctions on Georgia and Moldova in 2006, and banning Polish meat imports in 2007 - or from manipulating the flow of natural gas to Ukraine and Moldova. And the advent of a Northeast Passage, or even the very prospect, would add considerable political firepower to the Kremlin's armoury.

Together with a rise in oil and gas prices, which is widely anticipated over the next few years, this could be a recipe for a politically more muscular Russia. For the Kremlin would be quick to recognise the political leverage the Passage offers, and use it to full effect.

An interesting comparison is with the Suez Canal in the days of Egyptian premier, Gamal Nasser. From the moment he became president, he not only reaped vast transit fees from the Suez Canal but also had the power to block shipping just as, years later, he closed off the Straits of Tiran to Israeli vessels. So when he nationalised the Suez Canal Company in July 1956, Prime Minister Anthony Eden was alarmed that Nasser had his "finger on our windpipe".

Of course, future Russian leaders won't have nearly so much leverage: in contrast to Suez, the Middle East's oil will never reach Western markets via the Northeast Passage. The real comparison is that Moscow's control over this new commercial pipeline could change its spirit, emboldening it to stand up to its critics and to bully neighbours in the same way that Nasser was emboldened to both nationalise the Suez Canal Company and to rally Arabs with a stridently nationalist rhetoric that chilled the leaders of Britain, France and Israel and proved so dangerously destabilising.

It is in this sense that, far from representing a silver lining to climate change, the advent of a Northeast Passage could become the next Suez. darkerbullet.gif



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Have 'viewed' Stu..like someothers. An interesting and informative input...it's always nice to learn eh?.

Bobo


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Climate Change is very interesting. Personally I think it is a natural occurence, probably something to do with sunspot activity, but we will probably never know in my lifetime so why worry about it. Let the good times roll, and if the Mozzies are going to take over the world, let them worry about it. I love the warm weather so if all this means no winter I am all for it, and carbon dioxide makes the plants grow. As I live on the side of a hill and overlook the lake any rise in sea level will mean I get closer to the lake. Only the poor rich folk live right next to the water !!!! Our lake flushes into the Pacific on every tide so presumably deeper water that means more fish coming in for a feed. Let the good times roll.  Stu

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