THE CONTEXT: When the Ever Given, one of the world’s largest container ships, lost control in the midst of a dust storm and high winds on March 23, and became wedged across the Suez Canal, it was an event of international significance that also rekindled Japanese interest in finding alternative routes to Europe
- The canal is one of the most important arteries in global trade, and was completely blocked for six days.
- The incident sent a shiver through supply chains in the Asia Pacific and beyond, reminding everyone just how much their trade, supplies, and prosperity were reliant on Ferdinand de Lesseps’s 19th-century engineering project in the Egyptian desert.
- It highlighted the vulnerabilities of the Suez route for both the Japanese government and its business community.
- Leaving aside the very long route around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, Japan has two potential alternatives, both of them reliant on Russia – the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Northern Sea Route.
- From the port of Toyama on the Sea of Japan to Vladivostok and the containers would then be loaded onto the Trans-Siberian Railway and sent to a terminal in the Polish city of Poznan.
- By utilizing this route, transport to Europe could become much quicker. The sea journey through the Suez Canal takes about two months to complete, while the ferry and railway service could complete the task in as few as 20-27 day
- NORTHERN SEA ROUTE :The Northern Sea Route (along Russia’s northern extremity) could potentially cut the travel distance between East Asia and Western Europe (currently via the Malacca Strait, Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Suez Canal) from 21,000 km to just 12,800 km, and the journey time by 10-15 days
CONCLUSION: The opening of the sea routes and the exploration of hydrocarbons present economic opportunities which Indian companies can also exploit. On the negative side, the enhancement of economic activity in the Arctic Region will accelerate global warming and lead to large sea level rise impacting the global climate.Spread the Word