It’s Jam Band Friday ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZ-aJ1bWGLw )
Climate change could open up the Northeast Passage and link European consumers to booming Asian markets. It could also give Russia the means to blackmail the West
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 don’t 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.
I remember when they were together…not the continents… Theresa and Anders