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 estimate that due to the greenhouse effect, the average temperature should stabilize between 4 and 7 ° C by 2070, causing the total melting of the ice cap. And within a few decades (2050 according to Environment Canada), navigators should be able to enjoy summers without pack ice.

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

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

The map of the Northwest Passage

Robert Huebert, Professor of Political Studies at the University of Calgary and Deputy Director of the Center for Strategic and Military Studies, says Canada's Northern Region is neglected by the Federal Government despite having the longest coastline and potential significant resources. Climatic events will bring Canada's Arctic region to face new international challenges. He classifies these challenges into three

  • International disputes over control of the Arctic region.
  • Environment: climate change, mercury storms, presence of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and radionucleides (most of these contaminants are transported to the North by air and ocean currents from agricultural and industrial sources located further south) and finally, a corollary of the melting ice, the disappearance of almost all the species living on the ice floes.
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  • Security: appearance of a new entry point in North America requiring control.
  • Robert Huebert says the situation in the Arctic region poses no immediate problems, but Canada should think of a coherent and comprehensive strategy to best protect its interests before waiting for an emergency .


    1) Read the report "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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