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  Straits Times 18 Sep 07
Why Arctic ice melt is hot news for Singapore
Raymond Tham Kon Weng Adelaide, Australia

Yahoo News 16 Sep 07
Arctic ice melt opens Northwest Passage
By Jamey Keaten, Associated Press Writer

Straits Times 16 Sep 07
Global impact of shorter shipping route
Experts say new Arctic route will save time and money but may also rekindle territorial spats

PARIS - THE melting of Arctic ice in the Northwest Passage could increase shipping through the world's most fabled sea route but may also fuel simmering territorial disputes, experts say.

The route, across northern Canada, is the most direct maritime path from Europe to Asia. The European Space Agency (ESA) said yesterday that satellite images showed the route is fully clear of ice for the first time since records began in 1978.

That melting, which has been blamed on global warming, could trim thousands of kilometres from Europe to Asia, experts say.

At present, the main routes take ships across the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal, or via South-east Asian straits and the Suez Canal. An ice-free Northwest Passage will shorten trips for shippers.

'A container cargo ship travelling at 21 knots between Japan's Yokohama port and Rotterdam in the Netherlands takes 29 days if it goes around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa,' said Mr Michael Richardson, a security specialist with the Singapore-based Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, in a recent article in The Straits Times.

'It takes 22 days via the Strait of Malacca and Singapore and on to Europe through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea. But the same ship would take just 15 days via the Arctic Ocean.

'In the long-distance movement of sea cargo, time saved is money made,' he added.

This will hurt shipping hubs in the south, such as Singapore, according to this view.

But others like Mr Peter Schwartz, co-founder of Global Business Network, believe that the impact would be minimal.

'If you think about a ship sailing from the UK to Singapore, it usually stops off at other ports along the way to drop off cargo and pick up fresh containers,' he said. 'Some trade would move northward, but nothing that would make any noticeable difference to Singapore.'

Furthermore, the Northwest Passage will still not be navigable year-round for a while yet.

Dr Mark Serreze, a researcher with the University of Colorado, said: 'Ice will still be there in the winter, because even in the greenhouse-warmed world, there's winter in the Arctic.'

Meanwhile, territorial disputes are surfacing - Canada claims full rights over the parts that pass through its territory, noting that it can bar transit there, the BBC reported. But the US and the European Union argue that the new route should be an international strait that any vessel can use.

It will also pose a security problem for Canada. 'We're talking about Canada's longest coastline, and almost no policing presence there,' Mr Michael Byers, a Canadian international law expert, told Canada.com.

Yahoo News 16 Sep 07
Arctic ice melt opens Northwest Passage
By Jamey Keaten, Associated Press Writer

Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.

The European Space Agency said nearly 200 satellite photos this month taken together showed an ice-free passage along northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland, and ice retreating to its lowest level since such images were first taken in 1978.

The waters are exposing unexplored resources, and vessels could trim thousands of miles from Europe to Asia by bypassing the Panama Canal.

The seasonal ebb and flow of ice levels has already opened up a slim summer window for ships.

Leif Toudal Pedersen, of the Danish National Space Center, said that Arctic ice has shrunk to some 1 million square miles. The previous low was 1.5 million square miles, in 2005.

"The strong reduction in just one year certainly raises flags that the ice (in summer) may disappear much sooner than expected," Pedersen said in an ESA statement posted on its Web site Friday.

Pedersen said the extreme retreat this year suggested the passage could fully open sooner than expected but ESA did not say when that might be. Efforts to contact ESA officials in Paris and Noordwik, the Netherlands, were unsuccessful Saturday.

A U.N. panel on climate change has predicted that polar regions could be virtually free of ice by the summer of 2070 because of rising temperatures and sea ice decline, ESA noted.

Russia, Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States are among countries in a race to secure rights to the Arctic that heated up last month when Russia sent two small submarines to plant its national flag under the North Pole.

A U.S. study has suggested as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas could be hidden in the area.

Environmentalists fear increased maritime traffic and efforts to tap natural resources in the area could one day lead to oil spills and harm regional wildlife.

Until now, the passage has been expected to remain closed even during reduced ice cover by multiyear ice pack sea ice that remains through one or more summers, ESA said.

Researcher Claes Ragner of Norway's Fridtjof Nansen Institute, which works on Arctic environmental and political issues, said for now, the new opening has only symbolic meaning for the future of sea transport.

"Routes between Scandinavia and Japan could be almost halved, and a stable and reliable route would mean a lot to certain regions," he said by phone.

But even if the passage is opening up and polar ice continues to melt, it will take years for such routes to be regular, he said. "It won't be ice-free all year around and it won't be a stable route all year," Ragner said. "The greatest wish for sea transportation is streamlined and stable routes."

"Shorter transport routes means less pollution if you can ship products from A to B on the shortest route," he said, "but the fact that the polar ice is melting away is not good for the world in that we're losing the Arctic and the animal life there."

The opening observed this week was not the most direct waterway, ESA said. That would be through northern Canada along the coast of Siberia, which remains partially blocked.

Associated Press Writer Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm, Sweden, contributed to this report.

Straits Times 18 Sep 07
Why Arctic ice melt is hot news for Singapore
Raymond Tham Kon Weng Adelaide, Australia

I WONDER what went on in the minds of fellow Singaporeans when they read the article, 'Arctic ice melt opens new shipping route' (The Sunday Times, Sept 16).

How many took a second glance at the article, and how many noted its significance? The article pointed out the potential impact of the new Arctic ice route on traditional ports like Singapore.

A shortened Northern route could lead to the bypassing of our region, which itself is fraught with logistical and security challenges.

That the economic impact could extend regionally has further security implications for Singapore.

We need more articles like this, to open our eyes to what is happening in the world.

While we should not adopt an alarmist viewpoint on everything, for panic leads only to confusion, more can be done to help Singaporeans see our media as an 'operational brief', rather than one of self-praise and propaganda.

The media can be a double-edged sword, resulting in a well-informed citizenry on the one hand, or complacent 'frogs in slowly boiling water' on the other. It can lead to the rise or fall of entire nations and empires.

I am encouraged, on occasions like this, by the honest reporting of The Sunday Times.

However, more can be done to say to Singaporeans at home and around the world, 'Let's be honest, the road ahead is more challenging than can be explained in a media abstract. But take heart, we can still do it, and do it well as a team.

'We need to have a thirst for the global perspective. In everything we do, to think and act strategically, and do our very best as individual citizens and ambassadors of Singapore.'

The question, therefore, is what strategic actions will our national media and education agencies take to help Singaporeans think global, and shake off any complacency?

Is there a road map and how can the man in the street be involved?

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