Polar Great Circle Sailing Route

March 5th, 2013
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect:  An article in The Guardian has a headline proclaiming that ships will sail directly over the North Pole by 2050.  Scientists say that summer melting will be virtually complete within the next 37 years and late summer voyages directly across the middle of the Arctic Ocean will become possible.  Such a route will save up to 40% in fuel and time over what it now takes to follow Northwest passage and Northeast Passage routes which transverse the arctic at the perimeter of the Arctic Ocean, close to North American or Asian shores.

Click on map for larger, wider view image.


Projected Arctic shipping routes Photograph: guardian.co.uk

Follow up:

The Guardian summarizes savings already being made between Scandinavia and China using polar routes in late summer:

The northern sea route has been shown to save a medium-sized bulk carrier 18 days and 580 tonnes of bunker fuel on a journey between northern Norway and China. Shipowners have said it can save them €180,000-€300,000 on each voyage. A direct route over the pole could save up to 40% more fuel and time.

A total of 46 ships completed trans-arctic voyages in 2012, according to The Guardian.  However, most of them were accompanied by Russian icebreakers which added great additional expense.  Econintersect has not been able to find an accounting of the bottom line cost savings savings when the expense incurred by the icebreakers is included.  For the transport ships themselves the average savings vs. using the Suez Canal route are given in the excerpt above.

Recently there has been news about a "winter" crossing of the Arctic Ocean.  This was covered by GEI News:

The voyage began 07 November 2012 embarking from the Port of Hammerfest (Norway) and ended when the ship arrived at the Port of Tobata (Japan) on 05 December 2012.  So technically the voyage was not as advertised since the official start of winter was more than two weeks after the voyage was completed.  However, the ship did encounter young sea ice with thickness up to 30 cm (one foot), according to LNG World News.

Below are two graphics from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America article by Lawrence C. Smith and Scott R. Stephenson of the Dept. of Geography at UCLA.

Click on graphic for larger image.



Click on graphic for larger image.



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