China finally drew attention to the unique opportunity that Russia has offered for a long time - the transportation of goods across the Northern Sea Route. Beijing came up with the initiative to develop the so-called Polar Silk Road, and this clearly became a response to the relevant proposal of Vladimir Putin. What will this project give to Moscow and Beijing?
China officially announced its intention to develop the "Polar Silk Road" initiative in the Arctic, creating sea trade routes and strengthening trade relations with various countries in the region. The press office of the State Council of the PRC promulgated on Friday the first White Paper on China's arctic policy, which says that Beijing is an important stakeholder in the affairs of the Arctic.
China has no territories in the Arctic, but the State Council notes its "geographical proximity" to the polar regions. The "Polar Silk Road" will be part of the wider Chinese program "Belt and the Way".
As stated in the White Paper, China intends to create a sea economic corridor between China and Europe through the Arctic Ocean together with other Arctic states. Beijing is ready to encourage Chinese enterprises for participating in the development of infrastructure for these routes and committing commercial voyages. Particular attention will be paid to ensuring the safety of maritime navigation in the Arctic. China is already participating in the study of such ways, in particular hydrographic work, as well as in scientific research in the Arctic.
Along with the Arctic states, China intends to develop oil, gas, mineral resources and non-fossil fuels, as well as develop fishing and tourism.
China's main partner in this matter, of course, will be Russia, which is actively developing the Northern Sea Route (NSR). Most likely, it was the successes of the Northern Sea Route that inspired Beijing to create the "Polar Silk Road". In December last year, Vladimir Putin himself invited China together to make the Northern Sea Route Silk.
"Opportunity lay on the surface, and China takes up any opportunities that it considers economically promising. China looked at the successes of Russia, assessed the potential of the Northern Sea Route and created the concept of its own participation in the development of this space,
- says the first vice-president of the Russian Union of Engineers Ivan Andrievsky.
Back in the 2016, thanks to the Yamal LNG plant and the Novoportovskoye field, cargo shipments through the Northern Sea Route grew to 7,5 million tons and for the first time exceeded the volumes of transportation of the Soviet period. However, last year this record was also broken. 2017 million tons of cargo were transported via the NSR in 10,7. Rosmorrechflot predicts that in three years by 2020 the volume of cargo transportation by the NSR will grow to 44 million tons, and by 2030 to 70 million tons. Of course, the main transportations will be connected with energy resources (LNG, oil, coal and metals). Of great importance for the growth of cargo turnover is the launch of the Yamal LNG plant, where in December 2017, five LNG shipments were sent from the Sabetta port by tankers-gas carriers.
The main advantage of the NSR is a serious reduction in the transportation time of cargoes in comparison with the southern routes, through the Suez or Panama canals.
In general, this way is extremely attractive for China. After all, China is one of the largest players in the sphere of foreign trade and the largest consumer of energy resources. Therefore, the use of sea routes and natural resources of the Arctic can have a huge impact on China's energy strategy and economic development. The northern sea route will allow China to deliver cargoes to Europe faster by sea, cut the way to 20-30%, and also save on fuel and human resources. Given that 90% of Chinese goods are delivered by sea, the development of the Arctic Silk Road promises Beijing a serious economy and profit growth.
Now the road from the northern ports of China to Rotterdam through the Suez Canal takes 48 days. But the Russian Arctic tanker "Christophe de Margerie", for example, got from Norway to South Korea in just 15 days, that is, three times faster.
Among the Chinese cargo ships, the first Northern Sea Route in 2013 already mastered the Chinese ship Yong Sheng, owned by the Chinese transport company Cosco Shipping. This container ship was the first to travel from China to Europe, not through the Suez Canal, but through the NSR. He left the port of Dalian and passed through the Bering Strait for 30 days, which is two and a half weeks less than the traditional way in 48 days through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean. This is not surprising, because the length of the NSRS 15 000 km, which is less than 4444 km, than the route from Shanghai to Rotterdam via the Suez Canal. To all other, the Chinese saved then 820 thousand dollars for cargo transportation.
And, for example, the merchant vessel "Tianjian" passed through the Northern Sea Route to Esbjerg in Denmark, saving as compared to the route through the Suez Canal about 15 days and 383 tons of fuel, the Chinese edition of "People's Daily" reported referring to Cosco calculations. Last year, the Chinese first tried another new way. The Chinese icebreaker Xue Long passed through the Northwest Passage in the Arctic, breaking the way from Asia to North America in record time. In general, in the summer of 2017, six Chinese ships passed through the NSR.
And in September, the Chinese research vessel Xue Long first carried out the Northwest Passage along the northern coast of Canada, shortening the journey from New York to Shanghai for seven days compared to the route through the Panama Canal.
The climate is also helping to increase the flow of goods. Against the background of warming in the Arctic waters, there is less ice, which lengthens and reduces the cost of shipping.
"China, of course, pursues its own interests and tries to save on transportation, so the volume of transportation of Chinese in the NSR are growing. Some even see a threat in such expansion. Theoretically, there may be conflicts in the future with a significant melting of ice, as well as an increase in the military ambitions of China. But at the moment these threats are exaggerated, "Andrievsky believes.
"It is much more important that China will invest in the development of the NSR. This is a major partner of Russia, which needs trade, transit, minerals. The most sensible option for Russia today is cooperation with China on the development of NSR, the Arctic and its own technologies, than Russia does, "he adds.
China today actively cooperates with South Korea, which builds ice tankers for it and is ready to build even an icebreaker. And Russia's inability at the moment to become a competitor to Korea in building ships for the Arctic is the main modern challenge for our country, Andrievsky believes.
"Russia needs to develop its own production facilities for the production of ships and ice-class tankers. Interest in SMEs will only grow, so interest in such equipment will also increase, "he says. It is worth noting, however, that it is exactly for this - the creation of ice-class ships to work on the NSR - Russia is building a huge shipyard "Zvezda" in the Primorsky Territory.
For Russia, it is important not only the Chinese cargo through the Northern Sea Route, which will ensure its loading. The desire of Asian partners to invest huge amounts in the development of navigation and the infrastructure of a rather difficult path is a huge plus. The joint disclosure of the potential of the SMP as an important part of the Silk Road will be an excellent driver for the development of the Russian economy, the interlocutor is sure.