Executive Intelligence Review

FROM EIR DAILY ALERT


Arctic Northern Sea Route of the Maritime Silk Road

Jan. 25, 2018 (EIRNS)—The world's largest-ever conference on the Arctic, with 3,000-3,500 participants from all over the globe, is now underway in Tromso, Norway, more than 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Tromso is famous as the jumping-off point for great Arctic exploration missions, and the center for Arctic hunting in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The focus of interest of the Jan. 21-26 Arctic Frontiers 2018 Conference going on now, is the Northern Sea Route, or the Arctic Route, as an alternative sea route between Europe and Asia. The ongoing melting of the Arctic ice—a phenomenon of the far North not to be confused with non-existent global warming—makes this sea route practicable already today. As EIR has reported, Russia is building a series of the world's largest icebreakers in order to expand the use of this route. China officially included the Arctic Route as part of the Maritime Silk Road in its "Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative" on June 20, 2017.

In an interview with TASS at the conference, Keiji Ide, Japan's Ambassador for International Economic Affairs, Ambassador for the Japan Year in Russia, and Ambassador in Charge of Arctic Affairs, said that Japan was enormously interested in the development of the Northern Sea Route, gas projects in Yamal, and long-term cooperation with Russia.

"Unconditionally, there is enormous interest in the Northern Sea Route. Business people from Hokkaido were speaking about it at today's conference,"

said Ide, who speaks fluent Russian. "Of course, it is just a beginning. People assess risks and calculate what is profitable or not. They are considering them very carefully."

Ide said there was great interest in the Yamal LNG project, which began last year (which also enjoys significant Chinese investment), as well as the idea of building infrastructure for liquefied natural gas (LNG) production in Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula, which is in the Pacific near Japan.

"We want to collaborate with our Russian friends pursuing a long-term goal," the diplomat stated.

"Regardless of a rift between our countries in politics, we cannot say we do not want to develop our relations. On the contrary, if we come across either difficulties or disagreements, those need to be overcome."

"Thank God, your President [Vladimir] Putin and our Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe enjoy warm, good relations, so we will be developing economic cooperation with Russia," he said.

The independent Russian natural gas giant Novatek was represented in Tromso by the Norwegian Bjorn Gundersen, Deputy Director of its LNG Projects Department. Novatek's Yamal and associated Murmansk projects are the largest construction projects underway in Russia, and perhaps in the world. Novatek's partner Total, of France, states on its website that

"At the start of the project, there were no access routes to the site by land or by sea. To facilitate the transportation of equipment and staff, construction began on a large-capacity regional transportation hub in 2011, comprising the port of Sabetta and an international airport.

"To unlock access to the vast gas resources of Russia's Far North, the Yamal LNG project has inaugurated a new LNG shipping route. Known as the Northern Sea Route, it enables vessels to reach Asia in 15 days via the Bering Strait, compared with 30 days using the conventional route through the Suez Canal. The journey can be made between May and November, when the ice is thin enough to navigate. This feat is only possible thanks to a new breed of versatile LNG carriers, which feature ice-breaking technology."

The Yamal project's entire LNG production of eventually 34 million tons per year, will all be carried to customers in both Asia and Europe via the Northern Sea Route.

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