Shanghai to New York via Northwest Passage?

Xinhua, the official Chinese state news agency, says a recently completed voyage through the Northwest Passage by a Chinese scientific icebreaker was actually a fact-gathering mission on behalf of its commercial shipping industry.

As reported in the Globe and Mail, the news agency said the Xuelong (or Snow Dragon), which completed its 85-day voyage on September 6, “accumulated a wealth of experience for Chinese ships going through the Northwest Passage in the future.”

The Chinese icebreaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon), in Shanghai after an 85-day scientific quest across the Arctic ocean. (Source: Xinhua News Agency)

The Chinese icebreaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon), in Shanghai after an 85-day scientific quest across the Arctic ocean. (Source: Xinhua News Agency)

The story caught my eye because the Northwest Passage has figured in the dreams of our own port “developers,” Albert Barbusci and Barry Sheehy, also known as Sydney Harbour Investment Partners (SHIP).

Here’s Sheehy in the Chronicle Herald in 2014:

Sydney has one of the finest, most strategically located harbours in the world. It is close to the St. Lawrence Seaway, the developing Northwest Passage and is the first stop on the great circle route from Europe or Suez.

Not only did Barbusci and Sheehy tout our proximity to the “developing Northwest Passage,” they also made much of China’s interest in our port. In fact, the Chinese Communications Construction Company (CCCC) was going to build an ultra-modern mega container terminal in our port, although lately it seems like they haven’t been returning our calls.

What a shock it must have been to Sheehy and Barbusci to read the Chinese news agency’s triumphant report on the voyage of the Snow Dragon (which sounds like a CS Lewis novel):

It opened up a new sea lane for China. From Shanghai to New York, the traditional route that passes through the Panama Canal is 10,500 nautical miles, while the route that passes through the Northwest Passage is 8,600 nautical miles, which saves 7 days of time.

Shanghai to New York? And presumably, on the return trip, New York to Shanghai? But…what about Sydney?

The G&M story focuses more on questions of Arctic sovereignty and the environmental dilemma presented by the prospect of monster container ships plying the Northwest Passage — as well it should.

But it also adds one more little inconvenient truth to the growing pile suggesting the dream of Sydney as an international mega container ship hub may be just that.

Featured image: The icebreaker Snow Dragon was the first Chinese vessel to sail the Northern Sea Route. (Photo: Sinoshipnews.com)

 

 

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