• Norway's news in English
 

Melting ice pushes Norway closer to Asia

Published: 23 Jun 2013 10:15 GMT+02:00

Melting ice has opened up the Northern Sea Route along Russia's Arctic coastline, changing international trade patterns in profound ways -- even if so far it looks more like a sleepy county road than a busy, four-lane highway.

In a change of potentially revolutionary significance, the travel time between the Japanese port of Yokohama and Hamburg in Germany has been cut by 40 percent, while fuel expenditure is down by 20 percent.

"For the first time in history we are witnessing a new ocean opening up in the high north which will have a major impact on both trade and provision of energy," said Sturla Henriksen, the president of the Norwegian Shipowners' Association.

In 2012, when the ice reached its lowest extent on record, 3.4 million square kilometres, 46 ships used the new route, compared with only four in 2010, according to Rosatomflot, a Russian operator of icebreakers.

The traffic is still negligible compared with traditional routes. Ships transit the Panama Canal 15,000 times a year, while passing through the Suez 19,000 times. But the future looks promising.

The volume of goods transported along the Northern Sea Route is likely to grow strongly in the coming years, from 1.26 million tonnes last year to 50 million tonnes in 2020, according to the Norwegian Shipowners' Association.

Kirkenes, whose 3,400 inhabitants live in nearly uninterrupted darkness during the winter months, is suddenly preparing frantically for the expected boom.

The Tschudi Shipping Group plans to open a logistics hub measuring the equivalent of 200 football fields in a fjord nearby that is held ice-free all year by the warm Gulf Stream.

The port's location is extremely strategic. It is nine days' travel from both the Pacific and the Mediterranean, and close to major oil and gas deposits in the Arctic as well as mines in northern Sweden and Finland.

Twenty-six of the ships that traversed the Arctic Ocean between Europe and Asia last year were carrying hydrocarbons, while six were transporting iron ore or coal.

The new route also opens up an interesting market for liquefied natural gas (LNG) extracted in the Barents Sea, especially after North America, the customer that local companies initially had in mind, has turned away following a decision to use its own shale gas.

On the other hand, Asia's appetite for gas has increased after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, and prices there are significantly higher than in Europe.

Adding to the lucrative nature of the trade, each ship transporting LNG by the northern route can do it close to $7 million cheaper than vessels going through the Suez.

Traditional goods traffic, however, is not realistic in these latitudes, according to Tschudi Shipping.

"The big trading routes in dry bulk shipping are located too far South for the Northern Sea Route to become relevant," said Henrik Falck, the company's project manager for Eastern Europe.

And "we can forget about containers," he added, noting that owners preferred traditional routes with stops at densely populated cities along the way.

In a fragile ecosystem that is the source of immense concern among environmentalists, Russia plays a central role in assisting navigation with icebreakers.

It has also decided to establish 10 bases along its coast to redress the current abject lack of infrastructure.

Admitted last month as an observer in the Arctic Council, China also wants to be part of the game.

After the first transit of its icebreaker Snow Dragon last year, the world's second-largest economy now plans to send its first commercial shipment along the northern route this summer.

Between 5 and 15 percent of Chinese international trade could take this new road by 2020, the director of the Polar Research Institute of China, Yang Huigeng, was quoted as saying in the media.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Norway pirate film sold in 100 countries
Captain Sabertooth as played by Kyrre Haugen Sydness. Photo: Storm Films

Norway pirate film sold in 100 countries

The Norwegian pirate blockbuster ‘Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama’ has now been sold to more than 100 countries, raising hopes that it will justify its production cost in international sales. READ  

Norway's top four April Fools' Day tricks
The University of Oslo's Professor Ruth E. Vatvedt Fjeld. Photo: Yngve Vogt/Apollon

Norway's top four April Fools' Day tricks

Norway’s media was more than usually po-faced on April Fools Day this year, with the biggest newspapers and TV channels opting out. But a few brave publications stood firm against the sanctimonious tide to maintain the “Aprilspøker” tradition. Here are some of the best gags of 2015. READ  

April Fools' Day
April Fool! The Local's day in gags
In Norway we had you fooled that reindeer had become 'Norway's new salmon'. Photo: M.prinke/Flickr

April Fool! The Local's day in gags

No, you weren’t going crazy when you scrolled through The Local this morning. Today, our network temporarily lost its marbles for April Fools' Day. So, as the clock strikes 12pm, it’s time for The Local to fess up and reveal which of our stories were red herrings. READ  

Top Gear Stavanger show to go ahead
Jeremy Clarkson (right) with The Stig (central) and co-presenters in a rehearsal for a Top Gear Live event in Oslo in 2011. Photo: Morten Holm / Scanpix

Top Gear Stavanger show to go ahead

Sacked Top Gear star Jeremy Clarkson and his former co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond are to bring their live show to Stavanger’s Sørmarka Arena after all, BBC Worldwide revealed on Tuesday. READ  

April Fools' Day
Farmed reindeer 'Norway's new salmon'
Reindeer roaming wild. Photo: M.prinke/Flickr

Farmed reindeer 'Norway's new salmon'

Reindeer in Norway could be now farmed intensively for their skins and meat for the first time, opening up the way for a new revenue stream for the country’s hard-pressed farmers. READ  

Norway keen to join China-led aid bank
Chinese president Xi Jinping with heads of delegations following the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Establishing the AIIB. Photo: AIIB

Norway keen to join China-led aid bank

Norway said on Tuesday that it wanted to join the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, even though Beijing has snubbed Oslo since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a Chinese dissident. READ  

Norway brings in tough new immigration curbs
Justice Minister Anders Anundsen wants to make it harder for newcomers to Norway to win permanent residency. Photo: Trond Reidar Teigen / NTB scanpix

Norway brings in tough new immigration curbs

Norway wants to make foreigners wait an extra two years before they become eligible for permanent residency, as part as stiff new curbs brought in by the ruling right-wing coalition. READ  

Norwegian sets 60-hour organ marathon record
Nina Irslinger moments after retaking her organ record. Photo: Youtube Screen Grab.

Norwegian sets 60-hour organ marathon record

Norwegian musician Nina Irslinger won back the world record for the longest ever organ recital on Monday night after playing almost continuously for 60 hours. READ  

Norway sees Ukrainian asylum seeker boom

Norway sees Ukrainian asylum seeker boom

Norway saw a huge spike in Ukrainians applying for asylum in 2014, according to data released by Eurostat this month and analyzed by The Local. READ  

Atheists equal believers in Norway for first time
Arctic Cathedral in Tromsö: Henrik/Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

Atheists equal believers in Norway for first time

The number of Norwegian atheists now equals those who believe in God for the first time since a key survey began, in a sign of increasing secularization in the once god-fearing nation. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Muslims form 'ring of peace' at synagogue
Business & Money
Schumacher's Norway retreat sold for $3m
National
As it happened: Denmark rocked by terror attack
National
King Harald visits Antarctic namesake
Culture
Norwegians streak the streets of Berlin
Culture
Norway couple find love on word game app
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
International
Norwegian chef wins world's top food prize
Sport
Real Madrid sign Norway prodigy Ødegaard
Politics
Solberg: The fight for freedom isn't won
National
Gaza doc named Norway's person of year
National
Norway extends Russian military freeze
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
National
Kjell Inge Røkke tops Norway's Rich List
International
Surprise! Norway priciest for home comforts
National
Norway terror attacks to become TV drama
International
Malala: Youngest ever Nobel Peace Laureate
National
Norway celebrates 25 years of Sami politics
Business & Money
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
International
Norway best country for older people
National
Muslim centre wanted on site of Munch Museum
International
Norway to send military staff in fight against IS
National
Father warns Breivik 'more extreme than ever'
National
Four-year-old Norway girl sleepwalks 4km
Travel
Cruise line offers Northern Lights promise
National
10-tonne shark found dead off Norway coast
International
'If Snowden wins Nobel Prize, arrest him!': MP
Culture
VIDEO: Swim ace does 'Pool Rubik's Challenge'
National
Norwegian man in 7,000 litre 'Ice Truck Challenge'
Society
Norwegian brewery pulls 'fart-smelling' beer
Sport
Ødegaard: Norway's youngest player ever
National
Miracle cat survives 20 gunshots in Norway
National
Second death within hours at Chess Olympics
National
Norway and Sweden mark 200 years of peace
Culture
Interview: Helene Meldahl, selfie artist
Society
Now serving ... Norway's smallest bar
Travel
Floating Northern Lights hotel planned in Norway
National
Circus camel escapes again
National
Swiss bus driver charged with careless driving in fatal Norway crash
Society
Brit's charity tractor trek heads for Norway
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

2,334
jobs available