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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Humpert and Raspotnik
The TSR represents the most direct route for trans-Arctic shipment but has yet to attract significant
commercial interest, as multi-year ice remains a formidable obstacle for most of the Arctic shipping
The effects of climate change are, however, increasingly observed throughout the region and
the Arctic is now warmer than it has been at any time during the last 2,000 years (Jones, 2011).
Summer ice extent has declined by 40% since satellite observation began in 1979 (NSIDC, 2010).
Over the same period, Arctic sea ice has thinned considerably, experiencing a decline in average
volume of 70% (Polar Science Center, 2012). Within the next decade this warming trend may
transform the region from an inaccessible frozen desert into a seasonally navigable ocean and the
Arctic Ocean may be ice-free for short periods as early as 2015 (AMSA, 2009: 4).
Notable research on potential future Arctic shipping scenarios includes, among others, Østreng’s
Arctic Yearbook 2012
article “Shipping and Resources in the Arctic Ocean”. A study of the feasibility
of Arctic shipping for the time period between 2030-50 by Det Norske Veritas (2010) comes to the
conclusion that the TSR will for the foreseeable future remain an unviable option for Arctic shipping
due to unfavorable climatic conditions. Yet Schøyen and Bråthen (2011) arrive at a more favorable
outlook on Arctic shipping in general and state that “shipping operations in the summer time via the
NSR may already today be profitable” (977) and that additional shipping routes, i.e. the TSR, will
allow for more flexibility in Arctic shipping. According to Huebert et al. “the development of
northern shipping routes is not a question of if, but when” (Huebert, Exner-Pirot, Lajeunesse &
Gulledge, 2012: 1). The
Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment
(AMSA), the most prominent official
assessment on Arctic shipping,
differentiates between four types of traffic: destinational transport,
intra-Arctic transport, trans-Arctic transport and cabotage (AMSA, 2009: 12). AMSA defines trans-
Arctic navigation as a full voyage between the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean or
vice versa
(AMSA, 2009:
Seaborne trade currently accounts for 90% of world trade (Shipping Facts, 2012) and is dominated
by the transportation of raw materials, tanker trade, and other dry cargo, including containerized
cargo (UNCTAD, 2011). The growing importance of the trade relationship between Europe and
Asia and the resulting increase in seaborne traffic between the two regions will result in further
congestion and a higher risk of collisions along the existing sea routes and their choke points, e.g. the
Suez Canal and the Strait of Malacca.