Amid a public debate around container shipping in the Arctic, Geneva-based shipping giant MSC has doubled down on its position to avoid considering the Northern Sea Route, on environmental grounds.
Northern Sea Route, including the Northeast and Northwest Passages, has been recently seen as an attractive opportunity for commercial shipping as it provides a shortcut between North America or Europe and eastern Russia or Asia.he
In this respect, the company noted that an expansion of Arctic shipping could increase black carbon emissions, as well as compromise air quality, and accelerate the shrinkage of Arctic sea ice. Meanwhile, risks such as navigation incidents, fuel spills, air quality, and altering the ecological balance/biodiversity of the marine habitat beneath the surface of the sea, also outweigh any commercial opportunities, MSC explained.
As a responsible company, this was an obvious decision for us. MSC will not seek to cut through the melting ice of the Arctic to find a new route for commercial shipping and I consider this a position the whole shipping industry must adopt. Some of our peers have already made the same commitment to put the preservation of the Arctic environment ahead of profits. The Northern Sea Route is neither a quick fix for the current market challenges, nor a viable long-term strategy,
…commented MSC CEO Soren Toft.
MSC first made this Arctic commitment in 2019, but the reiterated call follows a statement by Russia’s energy ministry last week that the blocked Suez Canal highlighted the safety and sustainability of the Northern Sea Route (NSR).
According to Reuters, Russia expects cargoes to increase through the Northern Sea Route, cutting about 4,000 nautical miles off the southern alternative via the Suez Canal. Volumes reached almost 33 million tonnes during 2020, with the Russian energy ministry expecting that amount to reach 80 million per year by 2024.
In line also with its CO2 emissions reduction strategy, MSC also stressed that a reduction in black carbon would not only help tackle climate change but could also have benefits for human health. The company pointed out that these concerns should not be overlooked amid the current debate over the impact of the COVID pandemic and Suez Canal disruption on supply chains and regards Arctic route exploitation as an unwarranted step in the wrong direction.
Attempting to open new navigation routes which skim the polar ice cap sounds like the ignorant ambition of an 18th century explorer, when today we know that this would pose further risks to humans and many other species in that region, as well as worsen the impact of shipping upon climate change,
…added Bud Darr, Executive Vice President Maritime Policy & Government Affairs at MSC Group.