[photopress:logistics_northwest_passage.jpg,full,alignright]Many explorers have died trying to find the Northwest passage. The idea has always been that, if it existed, it would shorted freight times from one half of the globe to another.
It simply was never possible and expedition after expedition ground to a halt in the ice.
Now we have global warming that possibility is arising again. There might, in the next decade, be an easily navigable Northwest Passage. It might be possible for ocean cargo ships to travel on this northern route at any time of the year without hitting an iceberg.
Potential savings for shippers are enormous in terms of distance, time and expense. A ship taking the northern route between the U.S. West Coast and Europe would travel 5,000 fewer miles than on the conventional route through the Panama Canal. A New York-to-China run would take ten fewer days.
If it were to happen there would be massive changes. Ignore, for the moment, the possibility of existing ports being flood. If the route were to open there would be massive changes in U.S. distribution networks. An East Coast business, for example, will have the option of taking a shipment directly from Asia to an East Coast port rather than having it come in on the West Coast and trucking it across the country.
Politics is one possible barrier. Canada, the U.S. and Denmark — by way of its ownership of Greenland — each claim a portion of the Northwest Passage as sovereign territory, and they have overlapping claims. There will probably be a lot of negotiations involved. But it is a possiblity and, with the Arctic ice cap receding every year it is moving closer to probability status. Then the world’s biggest manufacturer, China, will be ten days closer to the world biggest consumer, the United States of America.
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