China’s Arctic Passage Ambitions Grow with Arkhangelsk Port Development

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CDE Op-Ed Commentary

 


The redevelopment of Russia’s Far North-Western Arkhangelsk Port to Deep Water facilities has profound implications for Russian and Chinese shipping and the development of the Northern Sea Route. Regional Governor Igor Orlov has stated that the first stage of the port on Russia’s North-West Arctic coastline will be operational by 2025. The port has access to the White Sea and offers passage across the Northern Sea route. This would provide shipping passage east through the Arctic Ocean to China’s north-eastern coast and Japan, via the Bering Straits, and west through to northern Europe and beyond.

Related Reading Arctic Sea Routes Opening Up For China

Chinese investment is involved in this, and the port is ultimately expected to have a capacity of 30 million tons of cargo – double that of Murmansk, and one of the world’s top 50 largest facilities. As such, the port will also facilitate the transportation of oil from the Ural Mountain region of Russia through to China by sea, as well as bilateral trade in goods between the two countries. China is currently negotiating with Russia to make a Free Trade Agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union.

The Northern Sea Route is a somewhat controversial shipping passage, opening up due to global warming. It lies entirely within the Arctic Ocean, with parts of it only ice free for two months each year. The melting sea ice is likely to result in “remarkable shifts in trade flows between Asia and Europe, diversion of trade within Europe, heavy shipping traffic in the Arctic and a substantial drop in Suez traffic” according to the Paper Melting Ice Caps and the Economic Impact of Opening the Northern Sea Route.

Related Reading Russia to Send Oil to China Via Northern Sea Route

Meanwhile, construction of the Arkhangelsk facility is well underway. That in itself demonstrates the forward planning and the patience shown by both the Russians and the Chinese in expecting a return on investment (RoI). While Western financed projects are often funded with a short-term RoI expected, the Eurasian bloc is seemingly able to tolerate much extended credit lines prior to securing capital returns, with the Arkhangelsk facility not expected to reach capacity until 2030.
 

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