A recent posting from our friends on Supply Chain Digital indicates that China has succeeded in completing the first ship voyage that utilized an Arctic Ocean and polar icecap route to travel from that country to an Icelandic port. The icebreaker Xuelong sailed this northern route that traversed the coast of Russia and previously ice laden waters. The Polar
Research Institute of China was the prime sponsor of the voyage, and its expedition leader is quoted as being astonished that most of the Northern Sea Route was relatively open with diminished sea ice.
This new milestone is significant in three significant dimensions. First, the report of shrinking ice mass allowing such a voyage to traverse parts of the Artic is yet another sobering indicator of global warming factors occurring on the planet, and that the polar ice caps are indeed shrinking. That alone should be cause for concern, given the increased frequency of severe storms and natural disasters that continue to occur throughout the globe.
The second significance to this voyage is that the Chinese are investigating the potential for a shorter seasonal ocean transit route to Northern European, Russia or North America ports, opening up the possibility of new savings in shipping and other transportation costs. Faster transit options add additional economic evidence to sustain China and eastern Asia as the epicenter of global manufacturing.
The third and perhaps less savory implication is that easier access to the Artic opens up opportunities to mining new sources of oil and gas exploration in that region. China itself could be a prime beneficiary, either as a supplier of drilling and exploration equipment or as a prime consumer of additional energy supplies to fuel its massive production resources.
This is obviously a development for supply chain logistics and transportation professionals to continue to monitor.