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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Shipping and Resources in the Arctic Ocean
and eventual overlaps. Here the focus is on the
Northeast Passage (
NEP), of which the
Northern Sea
(NSR) is the main part, the
Northwest Passage
(NWP) and the
Trans Polar Passage
(TPP) running
through the Central Arctic Ocean (see Figure 1). In so doing two types of sailing routes will be
addressed: (1)
destination Arctic-routes
, i.e. sailing lanes between harbours inside and outside of the
region; and (2)
transit routes
, i.e. sailing lanes between harbours in the Pacific and the Atlantic via the
Arctic Ocean. Both of these routes relate to the fact that some 80% of world industrial production
takes place north of 30 degree N. latitude, and some 70% of all metropolises lie north of the Tropic
of Cancer. In this perspective, the Arctic Ocean is an industrial ‘Mediterranean Sea’ – a shortcut –
between the world’s most advanced and productive regions.
The second purpose is to discuss how Arctic passages connect or may connect to world markets
through transport corridors in southern waters. The paper addresses four stretches of water: (a) the
Northern Maritime Corridor
(NMC), connecting the NSR/NEP to the European continent and the east
coast of the USA; (b) the “
Northern Pacific Corridor
”, connecting the NSR, TPP and NWP to Asian
markets and the western coast of North America; (c) the “Fram Corridor” (FC) connecting the TPP
to Iceland and the western branch of the NMC; and (d) the “
Davis Corridor”
connecting the NWP to
the western branch of the NMC and the east coast of North America.
The Transportation Passages of the Arctic Ocean
The Northeast and Northwest Passages are often perceived as coastal sea lanes, whereas the Trans
Polar Passage is assumed to be a mid-ocean route across the Central Arctic Ocean to
and from ports
in the Pacific and Atlantic. This perception is far from accurate. Due to the presence of sea ice
neither of these transportation passages can offer ships a single set channel to follow. In practice,
ships are forced to follow the channel that offers the best ice and navigational conditions at any one
time and place. Thus, they are more like broad transportation corridors stretching out in the North-
South direction, containing several alternative navigational channels and fairly huge expanses of ice-
infested waters. The corridor feature of these passages implies that they occupy broad stretches of
waters that under certain specific circumstances and on occasion make them overlap and impact
regional politics.