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Feasibility of a Sea Route through the Canadian Arctic

  • Saran Somanathan


    (Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2G8.)

  • Peter C Flynn


    (Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2G8.)

  • Jozef K Szymanski

    (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2G8)

Registered author(s):

    One predicted consequence of global warming is the thinning of Arctic sea ice. This raises the question whether the fabled Northwest Passage can be used for year round ship traffic, and whether the distance saved by using the polar route justifies the incremental investment in ice-breaking ships. A conceptual study using computer simulation was conducted to evaluate the Northwest Passage versus the Panama Canal routes between eastern North America and Japan. Recent historical ice conditions were modelled stochastically to calculate ship transit time. The economic performance was then evaluated by estimating the port-to-port shipping cost component of the overall required freight rate, again using stochastic modelling for a variety of cost factors. The most critical economic variable is the incremental capital cost between an ice capable and a standard Panamax ship. Shipping from St John's Newfoundland to Yokohama is economic through the Northwest Passage even with an incremental capital cost of 80%. Extending the route to New York would make the Northwest Passage non-competitive. We report the sensitivity of the port-to-port shipping cost for a number of economic factors, with capital and fuel cost being the most significant. Maritime Economics & Logistics (2007) 9, 324–334. doi:10.1057/palgrave.mel.9100185

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    Article provided by Palgrave Macmillan in its journal Maritime Economics & Logistics.

    Volume (Year): 9 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 4 (December)
    Pages: 324-334

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    Handle: RePEc:pal:marecl:v:9:y:2007:i:4:p:324-334
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