Russia to beat Canada in Arctic shipping: France
Russian Arctic shipping routes would attract more traffic than Canada's Northwest Passage -- both made increasingly accessible by melting polar ice -- a French envoy predicted Monday.
"I have the impression that Canada has given up on the competition to attract a large part of the traffic in 25 or 30 years," said France's roving ambassador for polar regions Michel Rocard.
The former French prime minister spoke to AFP in Montreal after a tour of the Arctic aboard the Canadian icebreaker Amundsen.
"The road eastward along the Siberian coast is less winding (than the Northwest Passage in Canada's north)... there are fewer islands (to navigate around) and finally, it has fewer risks and is more direct, even if it's a bit longer," he said.
Russia currently requires that any vessel or convoy traveling along its northern frontier be accompanied by two icebreakers, Rocard said.
But US researchers have said global warming could leave the region ice-free by 2030.
Canada is "too small to finance itself the infrastructure" needed to spur commercial shipping through in its Arctic -- a shorter route between European and Asian markets than the Suez and Panama canals.
Russia is an "Arctic force" with several icebreakers, including four new nuclear-powered ones, Rocard said.
And while Resolute Bay in Canada's far north has a mere 280 inhabitants, Russia's northernmost port cities of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk are home to 300,000 and 350,000 people, respectively.
© 2011 AFP