Arctic more than a blip on China’s radar screen

By: | at 07:00 PM | Channel(s): Energy News  International Trade  Ports & Terminals  Liner Shipping  

Although it does not possess an inch of Arctic coastline, the economic potential of the region is clearly important to China’s global aspirations. By Leo Ryan, AJOTAt a conference in Montreal on Arctic shipping late last year, the intervention of a Chinese speaker did not go unnoticed. While China does not possess an inch of Arctic coastline and is not a member of the eight-country Arctic Council like the United States and Canada, there is growing evidence that the world’s most populous nation is seeking to become an Arctic player. Even though the speaker was an academic, and some of his assertions appeared open to question, it was not the first time he had spoken on the subject at an international conference thereby suggesting that he had Beijing’s blessing.
With China’s evolution into a world economic power becoming more and more dependent on imported commodities, the Arctic region’s huge untapped resources and potential for shorter transportation routes figures high on the radar screen of Chinese global strategy, according to Guo Peiqing, Associate Professor of Polar Politics and Law at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao.
The Chinese academic notes that large quantities of foreign oil are imported into China from the Middle East, Africa, Russia and South America. “The Arctic, with its abundant resources, is much closer to China. By opening the Arctic passage, added choices may be very beneficial for the purchase of many resources. Such major purchases have in the recent past been Russian oil and gas, Canadian tungsten minerals and seafood from both Alaska and Norway.”
Guo claims that the Arctic could become “a new energy corridor that would be safer than the Indian Ocean where piracy is such a plague on the world’s shippers, including China.”
Using the Arctic trade lane, he argues, could offset soaring insurance costs stemming from the pirate raids in the Gulf of Aden.
He affirms, “An opening of the Arctic will inevitably start a booming construction of Arctic infrastructure. There would be a great need for harbors, warehouses, roads, pipelines, ice-breaking ships, oil refineries and more. Without doubt, this would bring a large-scale wave of immigration. These realities would create many opportunities for China to export building materials and industrial products to the Arctic region.”

The other Manhattan project: “Everything old is new again.”

By George Lauriat, AJOTThere is a saying everything old is new again. This is certainly true with the renewed interest in the Northwest Passage. Back in the 1960s with the discovery of oil in Alaska, determining the feasibility transiting the Northwest Passage was key to figuring out transportation for the black bonanza. In 1969 the 670-foot tanker SS Manhattan, made the Northwest Passage from East to West and back again. In order to make the passage the 150,000 dwt tanker was fitted with a 125-foot spoon handled bow and a protective steel belt, a staggering 9 feet thick. Her twin props were replaced with two strengthened propellers and her two rudders were reinforced with steel plating.
The SS Manhattan sailed from Delaware Bay on August 24th 1969 and reached Thule, Greenland on September 4th. The tanker entered the Northwest Passage and aided by air reconnaissance and two Canadian icebreakers transited the Lancaster Sound, Barrow Strait and Viscount Melville Sound before pack ice halted progress in the McClure Strait. Ironically, the SS Manhattan was jammed up near the spot where the HMS Investigator became entangled in 1853 in its own search for the ill-fated Northwest Passage expedition led by Sir John Franklin.
The Canadian icebreaker John A. MacDonald helped free the tanker, and the Manhattan arrived in Prudhoe Bay September 19th, having made the 4,600 mile transit in just under a month. On the return trip the Manhattan was damaged and had to be dry docked for repairs. Shortly after

George Lauriat's avatar

American Journal of Transportation