Climate Change and its Impact on International Maritime Transport
This article does not represent in any way the opinions, thoughts or perspectives of the CIP Secretariat nor its Member States.
Nowadays, the Arctic attracts economic attention for three main reasons: its abundance of strategically important and exploitable resources, the rapid decrease in sea ice, and its direct access to the three most industrialized and developed continents of the world. The waters of the Arctic become bluer, more accessible, exploitable and increasingly attractive for economic use.
The sea ice layer of the Arctic Ocean is undergoing a profound transformation in extension, thickness and condition, since it is approximately 40% smaller than it was in 1979, the rate of warming of the Arctic ice cap increases at a rate of 0, 2 ° C / decade, and the annual extent of sea ice has decreased at a rate of 3.8% / decade, while perennial ice (representing the coarse component) is decreasing at a much higher rate of 11.5% /decade. The foregoing, indicates that climate change is increasingly integrating the Arctic Circle with the global economy through the fusion of sea ice and the disappearance of permafrost (permanent ice), since it will allow the extraction and commercialization of the vast resources minerals and energy, which include not only oil and natural gas, but also a set of hard minerals such as copper, nickel, palladium, zinc, cobalt, tungsten, diamonds, uranium and many more, generating another source of increased international maritime traffic.
This new and growing economic activity in the Arctic, increasingly integrated with the global economy, can anticipate the environmental risks to which the ecosystem is exposed – emissions of greenhouse gases, oil spillage, disruption of marine life, noise anthropogenic, etc.- If the current trend of climate change prevails – the West Antarctic ice sheet is also estimated to have already exceeded the collapse threshold – the disappearance of Arctic sea ice will be before 2040, and will allow the development of between Asia and Europe through the Arctic, reducing travel distances by up to 9,600 kilometers, shortening transit time by an estimated 30%. The fact that the trans-Arctic routes are much shorter than through the Suez Canal or the Panama Canal between northern Europe and northern Asia, envisages a promising environment for the shipping industry. This would create the greatest restructuring of maritime trade routes globally since the opening of the Panama Canal route in 1914.
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