Canadian transport minister freezes hopes of Arctic Passage

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Addressing delegates during a forum held in Washington by the Canadian American Business Council, Canadian Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt said the shipping industry would have to wait a while longer for an Arctic based shipping route.

Several insurance companies and investors are begin to investigate the possibility of using waterways running through northern Canada and the Arctic region, but Raitt has buffered these hopes, saying it will be a long time before such a passage exists.

Raitt (left) dissuaded the possibility of any upcoming plans, stating “I don’t think the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal have any worries in terms of competition with the Northwest Passage right now”

“It is not imminent but it is possible.”

The development of an Arctic route could trim thousands of miles on voyages between Asia and Europe, yet the likelihood of any year-long pathway becoming available is unlikely in such an unstable, uncontrollable climate.

Raitt noted that officials will first need to help define navigable routes before they can decide what vessels are fit to transverse the Arctic waters.

“Bringing those gigantic container ships through areas where it is shallow, first of all, and where there are not a lot of navigational markers, is far riskier than other routes.”

Nevertheless, forecasts of melting ice caps and interests in untapped energy wells is more than enough to interest prospective investors to look into the future.

A US geological survey estimates that almost 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil lay underneath the Arctic landscape, whilst another 30 percent of the world’s natural gas could also be tapped.

Yet Raitt believes the risks of drilling in such a fragile environment are too high to consider any works at this time, stating that “one oil spill or accident in the Arctic is going to be a visual you do not want.”

Canada acts as chair to the Arctic Council, a body that co-ordinates policy with the US, Russia and Nordic regions in regards to possible ventures and the environmental stability of the Arctic region.

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