THE COLD HARD FACTS OF ARCTIC SHIPPING
|THE USS JEANNETTE HAD AN ILL FATED ARCTIC EXPEDITION AROUND 1878|
The USS JEANETTE is an example of the type of ship that early on was carrying what we might call "destination cargo" to the High Arctic region. Ships like this supported exploration in the High Arctic in the 19th century and early 20th century. Their cargoes were for consumption by operations taking place in the region. In supporting such operations these ships often "pushed the envelope" and came to bad ends as did the expeditions and operation that lost ships supported. The naval expedition carried by the JEANETTE had to travel by foot and small boat back to Siberia when the JEANETTE was crushed by ice. less than a third of the crew survived the trek. By contrast what many maritime analyst are predicting is that through traffic cargo is poised to increase through the region. "Through Traffic Cargo is traffic transiting the area as a shipping route for discharge out of the High arctic region. Here at the AAB we have never been all that confident in that prediction.
First back in the days of the JEANNETTE ships had successfully navigated across the Arctic region by holding as far south as possible in season. This tactic was the opposite of the kind of pushing the envelope operations that vessels like the JEANETTE had to engage in supporting High Arctic exploration or natural resources extraction. If we have long be able to circumnavigate the Eurasian or North American land mass in season, does a prolongation of the season automatically spell an increase in traffic, especially through traffic? We don't think so and we were planning at some point to publish a blog post explaining our reasoning but some one recently did a better job than we could and the editors of the NAVAL INSTITUTE's PROCEEDINGS apparently felt there was sufficient validity to the ideas expressed to warrant publication. We've written before our extreme confidence in the editorial board of the U.S. Naval Institute.
Increased navigation season length and less ice doesn't automatically produce more through traffic like container ships. Many other economic factors drive route selection, the existing container ship hub and spoke pattern of shipping doesn't seem poised to roll over and play dead for a high Arctic route. For a full discussion of the prognosis for increased Arctic shipping click here: http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2013-07/cold-hard-realities-arctic-shipping fo rthe recent article by Stephen M. Carmel