Shipping route through Arctic attracts China

A Chinese shipping firm is planning the country’s first commercial voyage through the Northern Sea Route this summer.   For China, the world’s No 2 economy after the United States, the route would save time and money. The distance from Shanghai to Hamburg is 5,200 kilometers shorter via the Arctic than via the Suez Canal, Yang said.

China has been lobbying for permanent observer status on the eight-member Arctic Council in a bid to gain influence.    Norway will work towards admitting China observer status in the Arctic Council “We want people to join our club. That means they will not start another club”. Barth Eide is backed up by Minster Bildt; “The Arctic Council should be the arena for Arctic issues”.

According to Chinese longer-term scenarios, 5 to 15 per cent of China’s international trade, mostly container traffic, would use the route by 2020. Ten per cent of China’s projected trade by 2020, for instance, would be worth €526 billion. “If the route is constructively prepared ... then the demand is there, it could be a huge number,”    in 2012 46 vessels sailed the Northern Sea Route, compared to 34 in 2011 and only four in 2010. The total cargo transported on the NSR in 2012 was 1 261 545 tons – a 53 percent increase from 2011, when 820 789 tons was shipped on the route. 
China and Iceland signed a free-trade agreement on April 15th, China’s first with any European nation.    The more likely attraction for China is access to improving shipping routes through the Arctic as that region warms due to climate change. 

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