Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has reiterated its position - first made in 2019 - to avoid the Arctic sea routes
The recent blockage of the Suez Canal has seen public debate around container shipping in the Arctic with some commentators – notably Russia’s energy ministry – raise the possibility of more transits via Russia’s Northern Sea Route.
However, MSC has doubled down on its position to avoid considering the route, including the Northeast and Northwest Passages on environmental grounds.
The operator believes there is “no overall merit” in using this potential trade route, noting that an expansion of Arctic shipping could increase the emissions of black carbon, compromise air quality and accelerate the shrinkage of Arctic sea ice.
MSC said “Risks such as navigation incidents, fuel spills, air quality and altering the ecological balance and biodiversity of the marine habitat beneath the surface of the sea also outweigh any commercial opportunities to make a short cut between North America or Europe and eastern Russia or Asia.”
Chief executive Søren Toft added “I consider this a position the whole shipping industry must adopt. Some of our peers have already made the same commitment to put the preservation of the Arctic environment ahead of profits. The Northern Sea Route is neither a quick fix for the current market challenges, nor a viable long-term strategy.”
“Attempting to open new navigation routes which skim the polar ice cap sounds like the ignorant ambition of an 18th century explorer, when today we know that this would pose further risks to humans and many other species in that region, as well as worsen the impact of shipping upon climate change,” said MSC Group executive vice president Maritime Policy & Government Affairs, Bud Darr.
Meanwhile, Russia has ambitious plans for developing the Arctic through 2035, with vast gas resources in the region, opening the Northern Sea Route to commercial shipping and the introducing a fleet of new ice-breaking LNG carriers.
Riviera Maritime Media will provide free technical and operational webinars in 2021. Sign up to attend on our events page