Geographies of Maritime Transport
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Geographies of Maritime Transport

Edited by Gordon Wilmsmeier and Jason Monios

This multidisciplinary book delivers a unique collection of well-considered, empirically rich and critical contributions on maritime transport geographies. It covers a wide range of markets and territories as well as institutional, environmental and future issues.
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Chapter 20: Arctic sea routes: a new geography for shipping

Gordon Wilmsmeier


Arctic shipping is frequently seen as a way of reducing transit time and distance on traditional East–West shipping routes. However, this potential of trade and making it economically viable and competitive has to be differentiated by the type of shipping sector and traffic, and according to changing market environments. Arctic shipping might also play a key role in exploiting recently discovered natural resources close to the Arctic Sea Routes. The exploitation of these resources is challenging, but also offers significant market prospects and commercial opportunities. The use of tankers in the Arctic is not a new phenomenon, but the volume of exploitable cargo would make Arctic shipping one of the biggest future tanker markets. A significant challenge is to deliver shipping services in the most environmentally sound manner and adapting to the extreme physical conditions, with temperatures below -50°C and multiyear ice covering the water surface. The pristine ecosystem in the Arctic is particularly vulnerable as the natural breakdown of pollutants is slower in these climatic conditions. Before the Arctic can reliably be used on a large scale for transit by shipping along its routes and passages, more investment is required in infrastructure and the provision of marine services. Integration will be a key issue as navigation in the Arctic may impact stakeholders beyond the region, as the region has the potential to evolve as one of the critical waterways for international shipping in the future.

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