China to use Arctic route for shipping to cut down distance

Beijing, Apr 20: With the Arctic ice beginning to melt due to global warming, China plans to make use of the sea route for its shipping to shorten the distance by 30 per cent compared to the ocean passages traditionally used to connect the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans through Panama Canal.

Chinese ships will navigate the Arctic via a Northwest Passage route that will be 30 per cent shorter than the ocean passages, official media here reported.


Guidelines from China's Maritime Safety Administration, (MSA), released on April 5, offer elaborate information on the route which follows the northern coast of North America via waterways through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

"Once this route is commonly used, it will directly change global maritime transportation and have a profound influence on international trade, the world economy, capital flow and resource exploitation," Liu Pengfei, MSA spokesman told media here yesterday.

Only one cargo ship, the Canadian vessel Nunavik, has made a solo voyage through the Northwest Passage, but "there will be ships with Chinese flags sailing through this route in the future," Liu said, without giving a specific time frame.

He said the 356-page, Chinese-language guide will be very informative. The information includes nautical charts and sea ice situations. Wu Yuxiao, senior official at the maritime administration who helped write the guide, said the route will lower transportation costs and be strategically important to China. Global warming has made the northwest route more navigable.

"Many countries have noticed the financial and strategic value of Arctic Ocean passages. China has also paid much attention," Wu told state-run 'China Daily'. In 2014, the administration offered guidance on Arctic navigation of the Northeast route, which crosses the Arctic following the coasts of Russia and Norway.

Despite the economic value of sailing through the Arctic, Wu said it poses many risks, including the potential for shipwrecks caused by ice and possible damage to the fragile Arctic ecosystem. He said the lack of support infrastructure and an unstable climate also lower the efficiency of Arctic transportation.

"But as sea ice has declined due to global warming, Arctic navigation has increasing possibilities. That's why we need guidance for ships with the Chinese flag," Wu said. According to MSA, Chinese-language guidance on navigating such major passages as the Antarctic, the Strait of Malacca and the Suez and Panama canals, will also be released.


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