Northwest Passage: Nations Already Squabbling over Ice-Free Arctic

Inside Story – How Will the Northwest Passage Influence Global Trade and Economy

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

This Al Jazeera documentary is about the melting of the Arctic ice cap and its effect on international trade. Shipping through the Northwest Passage, which is still limited to summer months, first began in 2008. By 2025, the Arctic is predicted to be ice free every summer. China, the world’s largest exporter, has a particular interest in the Northwest Passage, as it reduces shipping times to Europe and North America by 30%.

Canada, claiming the Northwest Passage as territorial waters, is challenging China’s right to access this trade route. Thus far, the US is siding with China, asserting the Arctic Ocean is an international waterway. At present Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Iceland and Canada have claims over the Arctic Circle under the UN Law of the Sea treaty. Owing to the US refusal to ratify the treaty, Alaska (eg the US) has no claim to this waterway.

In addition to the Northwest Passage, there is a second passage north of Russia and Norway called the Northern Sea Route. The Polar Code goes into effect next year, with mandatory structural requirements for ships traversing the Arctic Circle.

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