The North West Passage

Climate warming in the Arctic: good news for shipping industries

Keywords: arctic, ice melting, Northwest Passage, sea route, Asia, Europe, transport, freighters

The Arctic zone is experiencing a rapid rise in average temperatures.

It is one of the places on the planet most sensitive to global warming. Specialists believe that due to the greenhouse effect, the average temperature should stabilize between 4 and 7 ° C from 2070, causing the total melting of the ice cap. And within a few decades (2050 according to Environment Canada) mariners should be able to enjoy summers without sea ice.

This disappearance of the ice will open up new navigation routes that will link the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. The first route, called the "Northwest Passage" runs along the northern coasts of Canada, the second is the "Northeast Passage" which runs along the coasts of Russia, and finally a third potential route is the "Arctic Bridge".

These new routes will save nearly 10.000 km between Europe and Asia compared to the current route via Panama and the passage of larger cargo ships (up to 155.000 tonnes against 70.000 tonnes in Panama). This represents significant savings for the shipping industries and promises a strong development of northern regions of Canada (especially the port of Churchill, Manitoba) and Russia.

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The map of the Northwest Passage

According to Robert Huebert, professor of Political Studies at the University of Calgary and deputy director of the Center for Strategic and Military Studies, the northern region of Canada is neglected by the Federal Government despite having the longest coastline and potential. significant resources. The climatic events will bring the Arctic zone of Canada to face new international challenges. He classifies these challenges in three

  • International disputes over control of the Arctic region.
  • Environment: climate change, mercury storms, presence of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and radionuclides (most of these contaminants are transported to the north by atmospheric and ocean currents from agricultural and industrial sources further south) and finally, a corollary of the melting ice, the disappearance of almost all the species living on the sea ice.
  • Security: appearance of a new entry point in North America requiring control.
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    According to Robert Huebert, the situation in the Arctic region does not pose any immediate problems but Canada should think of a coherent and comprehensive strategy in order to best protect its interests, before waiting for an emergency. .


    1) Read the report in English "Northern Interests and Canadian Foreign Policy" (by Rob Huebert)

    2) Summary of the Second Assessment Report of the Canadian Arctic Contaminants

    3) The map of the Northwest Passage

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