Ever Given no longer blocks Suez Canal, but Russia sees long-term benefit in blocking it

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Ever Given no longer blocks Suez Canal, but Russia sees long-term benefit in blocking it


          Les responsables russes ont profité du blocage du canal pour vanter la route maritime du Nord, que Moscou veut développer en un important couloir de navigation.
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          <ul class="summary-list"><li>L'Ever Given, un porte-conteneurs, a été libéré après une semaine coincée dans le canal de Suez.</li>
  • Russian officials took advantage of the blockage to praise the Northern Sea Route, which Moscow wants to develop.
  • The northern sea route remains dangerous for commercial activities.
  • See more stories on the Insider business page.
  • Ever Given, a 1,300-foot container ship, was freed on Monday after being stranded in the Suez Canal for six days, preventing hundreds of ships from crossing the important transit corridor.

    Even as crews worked to free Ever Given, Russian officials seized on the incident to tout the Northern Sea Route, an Arctic sea corridor on which Moscow is betting big.

    On March 25, an arctic development official with state nuclear company Rosatom, which is in charge of developing the route, said the incident showed “how bad any route between Europe and the ‘Asia is fragile’.

    “The development of the Northern Sea Route covers logistical risks and makes world trade more sustainable,” the official, Vladimir Panov, told Russian news agency Interfax. “There is no doubt that Asian countries like China, Japan and South Korea will take the precedent of the blockade of the Suez Canal into consideration in their long-term strategic plans. ”

    The Arctic tanker Christophe de Margerie, operated by Russia’s largest shipping company, in the Gulf of Ob in the Kara Sea on February 18, 2019.
    Alexander Ryumin TASS via Getty Images

    A day later, senior Russian Arctic official Nikolai Korchunov said the canal incident “highlighted” the need for alternatives to the Suez Canal, “primarily the northern sea route”.

    “As a result, demand for the Northern Sea Route will increase in the short and long term. There is no alternative to this, ”Korchunov told state media Tass.

    Russia has invested heavily in the Northern Sea Route, which cuts some 4,000 nautical miles from a journey between Europe and Asia via the Suez Canal. President Vladimir Putin decreed in 2018 that cargo transported along the NSR is expected to reach 80 million metric tonnes by 2024, up from around 11 million metric tonnes in 2017.

    The Russian Energy Ministry said freight traffic on the road in 2020 was nearly 33 million metric tonnes, and that amount “has great potential for expansion” after the blockade of the Suez Canal, the ministry said on Monday.

    The time during which the route is navigable “continues to extend and reaches in 2020 9 to 10 months”, added the ministry.

    Russian tanker Arctic Yamal LNG
    Christophe de Margerie loads liquefied natural gas at the Yamal LNG plant in the port of Sabetta on the west coast of the Gulf of Ob, February 19, 2019.
    Alexander Ryumin / TASS via Getty Images

    The warming allowed more traffic, with 62 transits of the route at the beginning of December 2020, against 37 in 2019.

    An oil tanker made the first ever eastward transit in May, and Russia hopes to beat it this year. The same tanker sailed to western China in February, becoming the first commercial vessel to transit by road at this time of year.

    While the retreating ice in the Arctic has made human activity more viable, the Northern Sea Route “is not really an alternative in a commercially competitive sense,” Elizabeth Buchanan, lecturer at Insider, told Insider. ‘Strategic Studies at Deakin University based at the Australian War College. .

    The unpredictability of arctic ice means insurance is always expensive compared to other routes, dangerous conditions on the route and Moscow’s stringent access requirements are likely to discourage shippers, and the lack of ports and d Other transport links along the route “are also a factor considerations,” added Buchanan, a fellow of the Modern War Institute at West Point.

    While the 33 million metric tonnes of freight carried along the route in 2020 was a record, most of that was in the western part, and transit between Europe and Asia remains modest. Rosatom has asked the Russian Transport Ministry to reduce the freight target to 60 million tonnes by 2024.

    Coast Guard Icebreaker Polar Star Alaska Arctic
    A U.S. Coast Guard removes ice from the hull of the Polar Star icebreaker in the Chukchi Sea, December 28, 2020.
    US Coast Guard / PO1 Cynthia Oldham

    While the blockade of the Suez Canal may make Russia’s transit routes and pipelines more attractive, in the absence of the ongoing addition of major energy projects that use the Northern Sea Route and the development of ‘infrastructure to support shipping there,’ I don’t see the overall maritime corridor business case for ‘the route, Buchanan said.

    Climate change, which has had serious effects on the Russian Arctic, also raises doubts about Moscow’s long-term plans in the region.

    The geopolitical considerations that draw more attention to the Arctic should remain strong, however.

    The Russian military has spent years renovating old facilities in the Arctic and installing new units there. The Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday that the military had “commissioned 791 buildings and structures” in the Arctic since 2013.

    NATO countries, which are wary of Russia’s military activity in the Arctic, are also increasing their activity there – especially the United States, which shares an Arctic border with Russia in the Bering Strait.

    In March, the senior US Coast Guard officer said the United States and Canada are planning a transit of the Northwest Passage, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Canadian Arctic.

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