BEIJING — The Chinese government has published a lengthy Northwest Passage shipping guidebook that lays the foundation for cargo vessels to sail across the top of Canada.
Spanning 365 pages of charts and detailed information on sea ice and weather, the Chinese-language Arctic Navigation Guide (Northwest Passage) was compiled by ocean and shipping experts as a way to help the country’s mariners plan voyages through a waterway seen as a valuable shortcut between China and North America.
“There will be ships with Chinese flags sailing through this route in the future,” Liu Pengfei, a spokesman for China’s Maritime Safety Administration, which published the book, told reporters Tuesday. “Once this route is commonly used, it will directly change global maritime transportation and have a profound influence on international trade, the world economy, capital flow and resource exploitation.”
The publication of the book makes tangible China’s ambitions in the Arctic, where warming temperatures are melting new openings for the movement of goods through waters where Canada has few resources to respond to potential disasters.
“It should send a signal to Ottawa that more and more ships are coming, that serious countries and serious companies see the Northwest Passage as a viable route – or a route that will become viable in the next decade or two,” said Michael Byers, a University of British Columbia professor who has written extensively about the Canadian Arctic and holds a Canada Research Chair in global politics and international law.
The guidebook is intended to be an “Arctic passage operating manual,” according to China’s Ministry of Transport, which replied to questions by fax and called the Canadian route “the world’s most efficient and fast passage.” The ministry pointed to the sailing of the Nunavik, an ice-strengthened ore carrier that in 2014 made the first unsupported trip from near Deception Bay, in Quebec’s Nunavik region, to northeastern China. The route was 40 per cent shorter than crossing through the Panama Canal.
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