Arctic: melting ice could disrupt maritime traffic

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[EN VIDÉO] The Arctic is no longer the same
The transformation of the Arctic into a warmer, less frozen and biologically different region is undeniably underway today. Under the effect of global warming, temperatures are rising, melting the ice and greening the tundra, triggering gigantic forest fires in the region and profoundly modifying the environment of the animal populations that live in the Arctic. And consequences are now to be expected for the whole planet. © NOAA

It is a fact, the ice forming the arctic polar cap melt on sighteye under the effect of global warming. This environmental change of the region Arctic has, and will have, important consequences for the local ecosystems that are organized around this frozen environment, but the impact of this melting accelerated will certainly also be much more global, with a change in ocean currents and atmospheric, a rise in the level of the oceans…

There is, however, another consequence of this environmental modification and it could, unlike the others, turn out to be positive, from a certain point of view at least. The melting of the pack ice The Arctic is opening up new shipping lanes that could have a significant impact on commercial vessel traffic.

Ice that gives way to merchant ships

In a new study published in PNASa team of climatologists shows that, by 2065, navigation in the waters of the Arctic Ocean will indeed be greatly facilitated, with in particular the opening of many passages which will allow ships to pass more freely through the north instead of through the suez canal or that of Panama.

To reach the different oceans of the world, commercial ships currently do not have many options and these two artificial channels make it possible to avoid circumventing the African and South American continents by the waters of the Southern Ocean. However, a passage through Arctic waters would considerably shorten the path compared to these usual maritime routes. Who says shorter path, says reduced transport cost, but also carbon footprint weaker.

Faced with this diversification of navigable routes, scientists nevertheless draw the doorbell of alarm, by calling for the rapid establishment of a legal and environmental framework for navigation in Arctic waters. Because the opening of this ocean could also have strong geopolitical implications.

Russia could lose its control over this region of the world

Currently, there is indeed a northern passage, controlled by Russia, which has the authority to regulate passage off its coasts. Section 234 of the law of the seaestablished in 1982 by the UN, stipulates that, in order to ensure the prevention, reduction and control of marine pollution by ships, countries with a coastline close to Arctic maritime routes have the capacity to regulate maritime traffic there, at least as long as the region remains covered by ice most of the year.

However, Russia has long used this right in its own political interest, in particular by asking ships to pay a right of passage and by applying very strict regulations. These constraints mean that the passage through the north is currently only very little used, companies preferring to go through the Suez and Panama Canals, a much longer route but cheaper.

With the melting of the ice and the opening of new roads, this situation could well change. Russia could well lose control of the Arctic Ocean, favoring the use of these new, more economical and less energy-intensive routes. energies. Going through the Arctic would indeed reduce the length of the journey by 30 to 50% facing the roads passing through Suez or Panama, thus reducing travel time from 14 to 20 days. A considerable economic gain. From the point of view ofemission of the greenhouse gasit could be reduced by 24% for each trip.

Faced with the attractiveness of these new maritime routes about to open, it is therefore urgent to put in place international legislation to regulate maritime traffic in this polar region which is so sensitive from an environmental and geopolitical point of view.

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