Shipping firm starts using new Arctic route - The STAR
SHANGHAI: The maiden voyage to Europe by a Chinese merchant ship through the “Northeast Passage” will help the world’s biggest exporter speed goods to market and is a symbol of Beijing’s strategic ambitions in the Arctic.
The emerging Arctic Ocean shipping route north of Russia has been opened up by global warming and cuts thousands of kilometres – and many days – off the journey from China to its key European market.
A vessel owned by Chinese state shipping giant Cosco left the northeastern port of Dalian last week bound for Rotterdam in the Netherlands, on a 5,400km voyage which state media said would take just over 30 days.
That is up to two weeks faster than the traditional route between Asia and Europe through the Suez Canal, according to Cosco.
“It’s potentially going to change the face of world trade,” said Sam Chambers, editor of SinoShip magazine.
“The Chinese will use the Arctic route in a very big way. It’s all about having options, having alternatives in case of emergency,” he said.
But China is also eyeing the Arctic for better access to resources to fuel the world’s second largest economy, such as the natural gas reserves held by political ally Russia in the region.
China – which does not border the Arctic and has no territorial claim to any of it – also recognises the area’s potential for scientific research and its strategic value as what one Chinese analyst who did not want to be named called “military high ground”.
The commercial shipping route is currently only open for about four months a year as polar ice melting as a result of global warming makes it more accessible.
Three months ago, China gained observer status in the Arctic Council, a group of nations with interests in the region which is believed could hold rich mineral and energy resources.
The council’s eight full member states are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
“The opening of the new shipping route indicates China is participating more in Arctic Ocean affairs,” said Zhang Yongfeng, a researcher at the Shanghai International Shipping Institute.
The European Union is China’s biggest export destination with ‚290bil (RM1.23 trillion) in goods sold last year and Cosco, China’s largest shipper, described the new service in purely commercial terms, saying it will slash shipping times, thus cutting costs and fuel consumption. — AFP source from The STAR