Global climate change opens up new opportunities for international transport networks, particularly with the trend towards glacier retreat around the North Pole.
If the trend continued, Arctic routes could be used more reliably, at least during the summer months and for longer periods of time.
The North Sea route to the Arctic coast of Russia is likely to be ice-free and would reduce sea travel between Europe and East Asia from 24,000 kilometres, using the Suez Canal, to 13,600 km, thus reducing transit time by 10-15 days.
Furthermore, the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic Ocean could become usable on a regular basis within the next few years, thus reducing shipping distances significantly.
Instead, the sea voyage between East Asia and Western Europe requires to travel 24,000 kilometres, also through the Panama Canal.
The Northeast Passage is the shortest sea route from Europe to Asia. Its only disadvantage is that it is located in an icy area for a period of about six months a year and cannot be crossed. This, however, seems to be changing. Global warming is changing the rules of the game, opening up new and – in some cases – unexpected opportunities for freight transport.
The increasing use of this hitherto neglected route provides many opportunities for commercial shipping. The Arctic and subarctic sea route is also considered to be the shortest sea passage between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.
Arctic routes can save much time and fuel, as well as reduce fuel waste emissions, which is particularly important in an era of fierce competition between shipping companies and of ever increasing attention paid to environmental issues and ecology.
A further advantage is that this route allows ships to circumvent areas where piracy is rampant (such as the Straits of Malacca and the Red Sea region).
There are certainly many advantages, but also a major disadvantage. The route is only used by a relatively small number of ships. There are more ships passing through the Suez Canal every day than those sailing along the route between the Barents Sea and the Bering Strait.
The reason is simple: due to frost, ships can only navigate between early July and late November. Even in this short period of time the route is complicated; Russia charges taxes for crossing the territorial waters and you need to use icebreakers to clear the way in difficult weather conditions.
This entails additional costs. Moreover, fast climate change, sudden ice formations and irregular icebergs can also cause severe problems.
Since the infrastructure in Russia’s Northern ports has been in poor condition since the collapse of the Soviet Union, emergency situations could endanger ships.
Owing to global warming, this relatively short time window for traffic would become longer in the coming decades. In the past decades, the size and thickness of the Arctic ice cap have shrunk significantly. On August 29, 2008, the Northeast and Northwest Passages were even free of ice for the first time. Since then, the ice cap has further shrunk and thinned.
For example, an Asian icebreaker conducted a research expedition from the Pacific to the North Atlantic in August 2012. It encountered less ice than expected and the return journey took less time than the outward journey.
In the future the Northeast Passage could be completely ice-free in summer. From a historical viewpoint, this region has always been considered a harsh environment and its development is an important pioneering achievement.
As early as the 12th century, the Russians set off for Eastern Siberia by navigating in sight of the coastline. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Sweden and Denmark often tried to find another way to Asia, but they never succeeded.
It was only in 1878-79 that the Swedish explorer, Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld (1832-1901), made an expedition with the sailing ship Vega, leaving from Göteborg to the Bering Strait, sailing along the Northern coasts of the whole Eurasia and solving once and for all the problem of the Northeast Passage. Previously, in 1875 and in 1876, he had only managed to reach the mouth of the Yenisey river and was forced to come back because of ice.
Strictly speaking, however, it is not really correct to call it a success – at least from a theoretically commercial viewpoint–as the ship Vega was blocked by ice and trapped in the Bering Strait for ten months.
It was only in 1932 that the Soviet icebreaker Aleksandr Sibirjakov made his first successful passage in a single season. In the summer of 1967, that route was finally opened to the international shipping industry.
Later, before the collapse of the USSR caused a sharp drop in the volume of shipments in the Northeast Passage, nuclear-powered icebreakers cleared the route and enabled ships to transit (at the latest since 1987, 331 times).
In 2009, the Bremen transport and shipping company was the first to use that route again with two cargo ships, thus causing a sensation. According to the shipping company, the two icebreakers leaving Vladivostok at the end of summer 2009 were both class E3 – therefore suitable for sailing through the North Pole.
In September 2018, the Danish container ship Venta Maersk crossed the Northeast Passage in 37 days: It was the first container ship to do so. As it is a large container ship, its class is 1A (it can cross up to one-metre thick ice). It is specially designed with a reinforced hull for being used in cold water (minimum -25°C).
The maiden voyage of the Venta Maersk revealed a serious flaw, so it is unlikely that a large 40,000-ton container ship will sail along this route in the near future. The problem was that some parts of the route have a draught of only 11 metres, which is too low for a large container ship.
The cargo carrying capacity of the Venta Maersk is usually less than 3,600 TEU, but the shallow water means that it can only hold 600 refrigerated containers.
The construction of large container ships does not meet ice breaking standards, and is also constrained by more unfavourable factors such as length. Hence the Northeast Passage will never be comparable to the Suez Canal in terms of transport volume.
Great progress is currently being made in the construction of flexible cargo ships capable of crossing ice and cope with difficult environments without icebreakers clearing the way to them. This type of vessel can be used for certain types of goods that cannot take longer traditional routes.
Although it will take time, the global economy is expected to reap many potential benefits from shorter supply routes to production sites and sales markets in Europe and Asia.
Crossing the Arctic Ocean risks becoming a decisive factor in the fierce price war between major shipping companies.
However, environmentalists have warned against the damage caused by increased traffic. They fear that this will have a lasting negative impact on the extremely sensitive Arctic ecosystem.
Moreover, the more ships on the route, the greater the risk of severe accidents in this region rich in natural resources.
However, the world’s joint efforts to tackle global warming will put an end to such plans before then. A case in point is the expedition of the German research icebreaker Polarstern, which started on September 20, 2019 and came to an end this autumn.
The MOSAiC research (Multidisciplinary Drift Observatory for Arctic Climate Research) was conducted by the Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum fuer Polar und Meeresforschung.
The results of MOSAiC will contribute to a better understanding of the regional and global consequences of Arctic climate change and sea ice loss and will improve weather and climate forecasting, as well as the opportunities of exploiting this potential economic and trade route in the future.
Blue Economy and its potential in Pakistan
Blue economy refers to the sustainable use and management of ocean and coastal resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and the preservation of the marine environment. It encompasses a wide range of economic sectors, including fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, shipping, renewable energy, and biotechnology, among others.
The concept of blue economy recognizes that the ocean and its resources can contribute significantly to the global economy and the well-being of coastal communities. However, it also acknowledges the need to ensure that these resources are used in a sustainable and responsible manner, considering the fragility of the marine ecosystem and its crucial role in supporting life on Earth.
The blue economy concept has gained prominence in recent years, with several countries and international organizations promoting policies and initiatives to harness the economic potential of the ocean while preserving its health and biodiversity.
Pakistan has a long coastline of approximately 1,046 kilometers, which presents immense potential for blue economy development. The country’s coastal areas are rich in marine resources, including fish, shrimp, crab, lobsters, and other seafood, which can be exploited sustainably for economic growth and job creation.
Pakistan’s fisheries sector is one of the main contributors to the country’s economy, providing livelihoods to millions of people. The sector can be further developed by introducing modern fishing techniques, improving the quality of seafood, and promoting export-oriented fisheries.
Pakistan also has significant potential for the development of mariculture, which involves the cultivation of marine organisms such as seaweed, shellfish, and finfish. The country’s warm waters and favorable climatic conditions provide ideal conditions for mariculture, which can help diversify the economy and reduce pressure on wild fish stocks.
In addition, Pakistan’s coastal areas are rich in mineral resources, including oil and gas, which can be extracted sustainably to contribute to the country’s energy needs and economic growth.
Furthermore, Pakistan has significant potential for developing the tourism sector along its coastal areas, including beaches, historical sites, and marine parks. This can attract both domestic and international tourists, creating job opportunities and generating revenue.
Moreover, Pakistan has great potential for developing its blue economy, and it is important to ensure that this is done in a sustainable and responsible manner to protect the marine environment and ensure long-term benefits for the country’s economy and people.
There are several ways to ensure the sustainable development of the blue economy in Pakistan. Here are some key steps that can be taken:
Implement and enforce regulations: Pakistan should adopt and enforce strong laws and regulations to ensure sustainable use of marine resources, protect the marine environment, and promote responsible business practices. This can include measures such as catch limits, gear restrictions, and protected areas.
Strengthen research and monitoring: Adequate research and monitoring of marine ecosystems are crucial for effective management and conservation. Pakistan should invest in scientific research and monitoring programs to better understand the marine ecosystem and the impacts of human activities.
Promote sustainable fisheries practices: Pakistan should promote sustainable fishing practices, such as using selective fishing gear, reducing bycatch, and implementing closed seasons and areas, to ensure that fish stocks are not depleted and the ecosystem is protected.
Encourage responsible tourism: The tourism sector can have both positive and negative impacts on the marine environment. Pakistan should promote responsible tourism practices, such as limiting tourist activities in sensitive areas, reducing waste and pollution, and educating tourists about sustainable behavior.
Support innovation and technology: Innovative technologies can help reduce the impact of human activities on the marine environment and improve resource management. Pakistan should invest in research and development of new technologies, such as offshore aquaculture, renewable energy, and waste management systems.
Foster public-private partnerships: Public-private partnerships can play a critical role in developing sustainable blue economy practices. Pakistan should encourage collaboration between government, businesses, and civil society to promote sustainable practices and ensure that economic development is balanced with environmental protection.
Overall, ensuring the sustainable development of the blue economy in Pakistan will require a collaborative effort from all stakeholders, including government, businesses, civil society, and local communities. By taking a holistic approach and prioritizing sustainable practices, Pakistan can unlock the economic potential of its marine resources while safeguarding the health and well-being of its people and the environment.
China-Russia summit: What economic goals ahead?
The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russia to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to feature a wide range of issues for discussion, with bilateral economic cooperation being one of the most critical areas that will need an in-depth analysis and an ambitious action plan.
As stated by the Chinese president in his article titled “Forging Ahead to Open a New Chapter of China-Russia Friendship, Cooperation and Common Development,” published in the Russian media on March 20, both countries “need to raise both the quality and quantity of investment and economic cooperation and step up policy coordination to create favorable conditions for the high-quality development of our investment cooperation.”
The track-record of intensifying the China-Russia economic cooperation in 2022 will need to be assessed with due consideration with regard to both the achievements as well as those areas where there remains substantial scope for boosting bilateral ties.
On the bright side, there is the record-high trade turnover between China and Russia posted in 2022. A figure of around $190 billion in trade turnover comes close to the newly established $200 billion target for bilateral trade set for 2024. With annual growth in trade turnover reaching 34.3 percent in 2022, the momentum appears strong for the $200 billion target to be reached well ahead of schedule.
China’s optimization of COVID-19 measures and the liberalization of transportation regulations (including with respect to direct flights between China and Russia) will likely boost bilateral trade further, including in the services sector (most notably in the tourist segment).
On the other hand, figures on investment from China to Russia, most importantly long-term foreign direct investment (FDI) flows, show a significantly more moderate growth pace compared to the above-mentioned trade growth figures. The FDI data published by the Eurasian Development Bank suggests that the stock of FDI from China to Russia grew by 27.4 percent from 2016 to mid-2022, implying an annual average growth rate of a little over 3 percent. According to the forecasts coming from the Eurasian Development Bank, growth in FDI inflows from China into Russia is likely to continue, albeit still at a moderate pace.
Against the backdrop of these trends in trade and investment, the use of national currencies will very likely be another point of discussion at the China-Russia talks. Last year saw a substantial rise in the use of the rouble and the Chinese yuan in bilateral trade transactions. In the course of 2022, the share of the rouble and the yuan in Russia’s export operations increased from 12 percent and 0.5 percent to 34 percent and 16 percent, respectively; the share of the U.S. dollar and the Euro declined to less than 50 percent by end-2022.
As regards Russia’s imports the share of the yuan increased from 4 percent to 23 percent, while that of the Russian rouble declined from 29 percent to 27 percent, the share of the U.S. dollar and the Euro declined from 65 percent to 46 percent.
In spite of the impressive scale of de-dollarization in bilateral trade, there is still ample scope to further increase the use of national currencies. This should be made possible by greater use of national and regional payment systems – not only on a bilateral basis, but also in the broader framework of BRICS via the introduction of the long-awaited BRICS Pay system.
Another possible venue to de-dollarization that may be discussed at the summit may be the launching of a new BRICS reserve currency – a project that Putin unveiled in mid-2022. The future of this new currency dubbed R5 (all five currencies of BRICS countries start with a letter “R”) to a significant degree will depend of the readiness of both China and Russia to pursue a coordinated approach to launching such an undertaking that may prove to be critical not only for the BRICS proper, but for the broader realm of the developing world.
To forge ahead with greater de-dollarization, it is critical to ensure greater coordination in international economic organizations. This is particularly important for the advancement of the global role of such groupings as BRICS that have taken on a rising prominence on the international arena, particularly after the successful BRICS chairmanship of China in 2022. Both countries play a crucial role in making BRICS a dynamic, open and inclusive platform, with one of the near-term issues being that of BRICS expansion and the possibility of the inclusion of new large emerging markets into the BRICS core.
In the end, the meeting between the leaders of China and Russia will present an opportunity to build on the strong momentum in boosting bilateral economic cooperation. Apart from the rising prominence of Global South, there is the resurgence of economic concerns in the West – against the backdrop of rising fragilities in the financial sector in the U.S. and Europe, boosting bilateral economic ties between China and Russia may be seen as lowering the susceptibility to the rising frequency of crisis waves emanating from developed economies.
Author’s note: First published at CGTN
Is the Western Moral Triumph still possible? Of Jeffrey Sachs and Edges of Globalization
“It feels like I imagine 1912 to feel” stated US Columbia Professor Jeffrey Sachs during an extraordinary zoom conference on the 8th of March. The discussion about the current geopolitical state with Geneva participants, concepted and hosted by professor Anis H. Bajrektarevic, was held on an emblematic day, the International Women’s Day, celebrating female achievements in social, cultural and political fields. As Professor Sachs reminded, to remember this occasion is of the highly importance to maintain human rights at the core of our engagements in a froth and difficult geopolitical situation.
Jeffrey David Sachs, born November 5, 1954 is a US economist, academic, public policy analyst, and former director of the Columbia’s Earth Institute, where he holds the title of university professor. He is known for his work on sustainable development, economic development, and the fight to end poverty.
Currently, Sachs is Director of the Centre for Sustainable Development at Columbia University and President of the UN SD Solutions Network. He is an SDG Advocate for UN Sec-General Antonio Guterres on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 global goals adopted at a UN summit meeting in September 2015. Previously, from 2001 to 2018, Sachs served as Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General, and held the same position under the previous UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and prior to 2016 a similar advisory position related to the earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight internationally sanctioned objectives to reduce extreme poverty, hunger and disease by 2015. In connection with the MDGs, he had first been appointed special adviser to the UN Secretary-General in 2002 during the term of Kofi Annan.
Sachs is co-founder and chief strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending extreme poverty and hunger. From 2002 to 2006, he was director of the UN Millennium Projects network on MDGs. He is co-editor of the World Happiness Report (co-authored with Helliwell and Layard). In 2010, he became a commissioner for the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development (developmental effects of broadband in international policy).
For the past three decades, Sachs extensively advised numerous governments in Europe, MENA, and Afro-Asia. He has written number of books and received several awards. He has been criticized for his views on economics, the origin of Covid-19, war in Ukraine and decoupling from China.
During his mesmerizing talk and exchange with the participants, professor Sachs evoked the biased diametrically opposed media information conveyed by the West and Russia, reinforcing the dangerous and froth environment of an escalating and unpredictable war. The honorable guest spoke about the conflict’s real debuts, “33 years ago at the cold war’s sundown under Gorbachev’s leadership and the promise by the US and Germany that NATO would not expand east, as well as the rise of the US as the ultimate superpower”. Giving the admiring audience anecdotes of his career, Jeffrey Sachs explained how the conflict is wrongly portrayed aiming for an Orwellian amnesia, and how things could have been handled strategically differently and with more honesty and empathy, ending in a dissimilar outcome. His principal host, prof. Anis asked him: “Jeff, is the moral triumph of the (political) west still possible?”
He lankly criticized the change of US policy towards China since 2015, labeling the country as an enemy as its economy rose, creating a dangerous environment that leaves no place for diplomacy. Professor shared his worries towards the tensions and the fear of an escalating hot war that could easily lead to a nuclear conflict. To Professor Sachs the aggressive US’ hegemonic policy towards China is senseless and dangerous and weakening diplomacy. “All China wants is to be respected and all America wants is to be told how smart they are”- he stated. He insisted on the fact that we need an open new world where there is no US or Europe leading but a world of acknowledgement, history, justice, appreciation and hope.
Throughout the discussions, the esteemed Professor criticized the lack of communication between Biden and Putin and the huge irresponsibility that he places mostly on the US side. He insisted on the importance of communicating in diplomacy as well as with each other in day to day lives. Further on, distinguished guest engaged audience in a constructive critic of the western positions in contemporary world of slobalisation and attempts of decoupling from the Sino world through the accelerated spiral of violent rhetoric’s and wargames. Finally, he made a reference on the recent hearing at the UN Security Council related to the so-called North Stream issue.
The inspiring yet easy-going talk evolved in a friendly exchange of questions and remarks between Professor Sachs and the participants. Content intensive, inspiring reflective and farsighted, yet amicable and family-like atmosphere with a direct, personal access to the notable guest deeply impressed all. As the event came to an end, with the univocal wish of organizing global teaching, a global seminar to educate people and especially young people on important topics (including human rights and liberties), Professor Anis Bajrektarevic closed the meeting by inviting Professor Sachs to make time on his very busy agenda to visit Geneva soon to continue the discussion, proposition that was kindly welcomed and agreed to.
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