The Northwest Passage versus the Northern Sea Route
This month, former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard (Michel Rocard), who is now the representative of the French position on the Arctic and Antarctic, visited the Arctic aboard the Canadian icebreaker "Amundsen". Rocard not really praised the capabilities of the host country in the far north. He stated: "I have the impression that Canada has given up the fight for what to draw in the next 25-30 years, most of the traffic on your way to the Arctic".
Rocard added that Canada is too small a country to pay for the conversion of the Northwest Passage into a viable sea route. At the same time, he believes that Russia is much more prepared for the fact that transform the Northern Sea Route is an attractive alternative to the Suez Canal. Russia already has four nuclear-powered icebreaker, and it is building for at least another one. In addition, Russia has just announced that it will create along the route of the nine emergency response centers to be located on the Chukotka Sea to the Barents Sea. Each center will cost $ 18.5 million, and there will be a rescue, fire-fighting equipment and a helicopter.
Dr. Alex Knijnikov working coordinator of the Russian program of the World Wildlife Fund for Environmental Policy oil and gas sector, says the following:
"Without such centers all commercial operations in the Arctic are fraught with huge risks. These hazards are greatly reduced, as Russia will launch a chain of such centers from Chukotka to the Barents Sea. These centers will ensure the protection of the local population and the fragile environment of the Arctic. "
There is a certain irony in the fact that these centers need to protect the local population and the environment. It seems that now is taken not too many preventive measures to prevent accidents. Rather, Russia puts emergency response centers, which will be operated as a tanker is leaking into the water of oil or hazardous substances. Be that as it may, it is undeniable that the country has invested a lot of money in the North in general, and in the Northern Sea Route in particular. And Canada is lagging behind in this respect. Even Russia is building 15 new monitoring stations and 30 automatic monitoring stations. Overall, generally there will be 70 and 33, respectively. She even has the intention to place more satellites in space to monitor the weather in the Russian Arctic.
But it’s not true that Canada is "too small country" to develop the infrastructure of the Northwest Passage. In fact, if we talk about the economy, its GDP slightly higher than that of Russia, though living in Canada less crowded, especially in the Arctic. Its problems have more to do with geography and politics. From the point of view of geography at the Northwest Passage has a number of drawbacks. First of all, through the numerous islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is no clearly defined route, while the Northern Sea Route is mostly along the coast of Russia. Also, near the Canadian Northwest Passage is very little infrastructure. In villages that are along the route, such as Cambridge Bay and Resolute, Canada from other places can only be reached by plane. At the same time, Russian favorable factor is that the Northern Sea Route is ice-free port of Murmansk. At the same time it is a large city with a direct train service to St. Petersburg. Although the two routes are approximately the same latitude — just south of 70 degrees north latitude — the Northwest Passage as a whole is covered by ice more than the Russian way. In addition, in Canada, recent changes in the melting of the ice is not applied properly on the map for navigation. And because Canada has no icebreakers needed for piloting through treacherous passage, companies are reluctant to transfer their cargo from the Suez Canal to the North-West Passage, in spite of vigorous activity of Somali pirates.
From a policy perspective, Canadian sovereignty over the Northwest Passage is disputed, and above all, it challenged the United States. With regard to the Northern Sea Route is no dispute not because he runs near the Russian coast. In addition, as Canada is a parliamentary democracy, it is not easy just to put money into this project, no matter how hard Stephen Harper. On the other hand, the Russian authorities in this respect is much easier.
While Rocard accuses Canada in the absence of will on the issue in the Arctic, Russia is preparing for posting on the Northern Sea Route, the largest in the history of the tanker. The wiring will be carried out by two atomic icebreakers. "Yamal" on board which has recently undergone a major conference on the Arctic, and "50 Years of Victory" will carry on the Northern Sea Route class Suezmax tanker "Vladimir Tikhonov" with a displacement of 162,000 tons. Coming out of Norway in Murmansk, accompanied by "50 Years of Victory", the tanker and gas condensate in 8-9 days will reach the New Siberian Islands, where he will meet with the "Yamal". He then continue sailing along the Northern Sea Route to the final destination in Thailand. Canadian newspapers can not boast of stories about the wiring of such large vessels on the Northwest Passage. While it is in the distant future.