If Egypt’s Suez Canal is closed to commerce, an Arctic trade route to move goods between the Pacific to the Atlantic could become a popular option, according to a Wednesday report from the international shipping magazine Fairplay.
“The risks to the Suez are higher than they’ve been since war between Israel and Egypt,” said John Higginbotham, a senior fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation’s Arctic program, told Fairplay.
A shutdown of the canal “would shift the whole range of global maritime commerce. And it would greatly increase the attractiveness of the Northern Sea Route,” he said.
The path from the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska to the North Sea is open for two to three months a year. On Aug. 8, Chinese merchant ship Yong Sheng left Dalian to attempt the almost 3,000 nautical miles trip in a first for Chinese shippers.
During the most recent unrest in Egypt the canal has remained open. Transits in August have surged compared to the first half of the year, according to a report from Marine Link.
“The daily average number of transit registered 47.3 vessel, while the daily average tonnage was 2.64 metric tons, compared to 44.3 vessel and 2.45 metric tons during the first half of the current year respectively,” according to the report.
Keeping the canal open is a stated high priority for the Egyptian government but if it were to close, “15 minutes later people in the shipping industry all over the world will be going nuts looking for alternatives,” Higginbotham said.