Imported coal being unloaded from a cargo ship at a port in Lianyungang, east China's Jiangsu province, on 29 March 2016. Photo: AFP

[cf. World discovers a $1 trillion ocean as Arctic sea ice vanishes – ‘These changes are like nothing we have seen. We don’t have anything to compare with in history.’]

BEIJING, 20 April 2016 (Reuters) – China will encourage ships flying its flag to take the Northwest Passage via the Arctic Ocean, a route opened up by global warming, to cut travel times between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, a state-run newspaper said on Wednesday.

China is increasingly active in the polar region, becoming one of the biggest mining investors in Greenland and agreeing a free trade deal with Iceland. In 2013, the Arctic Council admitted emerging powers China and India as observers.

Shorter shipping routes across the Arctic Ocean would save Chinese companies time and money. For example, the journey from Shanghai to Hamburg via the Arctic route is 2,800 nautical miles shorter than going by the Suez canal.

China's Maritime Safety Administration this month released a 356-page guide in Chinese offering detailed route guidance from the northern coast of North America to the northern Pacific, the China Daily said.

"Once this route is commonly used, it will directly change global maritime transport and have a profound influence on international trade, the world economy, capital flow and resource exploitation," ministry spokesman Liu Pengfei was quoted as saying.

Chinese ships will sail through the Northwest Passage "in the future", Mr Liu added, without giving a timeframe.

The route would also be strategically important to China, another ministry official, Mr Wu Yuxiao, told the newspaper. […]

"As sea ice has declined due to global warming, Arctic navigation has increasing possibilities. That's why we need guidance for ships with the Chinese flag." [more]

China wants ships to use faster Arctic route opened by global warming

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