Arctic Yearbook 2012
Humpert and Raspotnik
Rob Huebert, Associate Director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at
the University of Calgary, sees China’s arrival in the Arctic as a part of the changing geopolitical
realities and a more assertive China in the international system (as cited in Sibley, 2011).
Chinese policymakers have expressed a preference for routing Arctic shipping along the TSR rather
than using the NSR. The country’s Arctic specialists are wary of Russia’s ability “to unilaterally
charge exorbitant fees for ships passing through its EEZ waters” (Jakobson, 2010), which would
significantly decrease the commercial advantage of the NSR. In addition, bureaucratic hurdles to pass
through the NSR remain high and no such obstacles exist along the TSR.
The potential development of the Arctic Bridge, a shipping route connecting Canada’s only Arctic
deep-water port in Churchill to Russia’s ice-free port of Murmansk, passes in proximity of Iceland’s
waters and could further enhance the island nation’s strategic location in the middle of the Northern
Atlantic. The Arctic Bridge represents the fastest sea route connection between North America and
Eurasia and reduces the transit time between the two markets by nine days compared to the St.
Lawrence Seaway passage. Eimskip, a major Icelandic shipping company intends to play a significant
role in the opening of these new shipping routes across the Arctic and Iceland’s future as a trans-
shipment hub (Ministry Foreign Affairs Iceland, 2007: 26).
The earth’s rapidly changing climate will continue to affect the Arctic environment and contribute to
major physical, ecological, social, and economic changes. Melting of the Arctic sea ice will soon allow
for extended periods of navigation in the Arctic Ocean, yet the region’s navigational challenges are
and will remain unique compared to all other global shipping operations (Jensen, 2008: 107). The
Transpolar Sea Route represents one of three sea routes that have the potential to transform
commercial shipping in the 21
century. Projections on the future of Arctic shipping include a
number of highly variable factors and in order to arrive at a comprehensive analysis regarding the
potential future development of the TSR, the authors conducted a multi-level assessment involving a
discussion of environmental and climatic uncertainties, the international legal situation, economic
considerations, and the importance of state behavior.
The transition of the Arctic Ocean into a navigable seaway is well under way and climatic and sea ice
conditions will continue to improve significantly over the next two decades. Marine navigation in the
Arctic will remain challenging during the winter and spring months when ice conditions will remain