Human intervention, when introducing new technology or infrastructure, has historically not led to a safer environment or left nature unharmed – take the invention of nuclear power that went online without having figured out how to safely dispose of radioactive fuel.
The same issue has arisen with rotor blades of wind farms that can’t be recycled due to the potential release of dust and toxic gases from the rotors’ carbon fibre polymers.
With a foreseen increase in world trade, according to IHS Markit, new infrastructure will be needed to get more cargo from A to B and many are eyeing up the Arctic as a way to avoid clogging up existing busy sea trade routes.
The DPC readership is split about this. In a poll we asked if this is a good development considering it brings opportunities for port developments.
The results revealed that 57% of respondents felt it was a positive change, while 43% voiced their disagreement, expressing concerns about more traffic and development in the region.
One respondent for example warned that the Arctic’s prestige ecosystem might not recover from an accidental oil spill, which could have dire consequences and “ultimately let the whole region die”. Drawing a comparison to the ongoing fires in Australia, the reader warned that the region “is already extraordinarily stressed. Boreal forests and animals die and burn as well”.
While Jeroen van den Berg, Royal IHC commercial business analyst, agrees there is a need to accommodate the expected increase in goods being transported globally, he emphasises the importance of “taking care of the sensitive environment in the Arctic”.
Citing the Northern Sea Route, approved by the Russian government, he argues, this will not only lead to new dredging contracts, but the introduction of LNG as marine fuel will reduce CO2 emissions. “The availability of gas in the region together with new infrastructure is key for an efficient supply chain and reduces the environmental impact in case of incidents compared to conventional diesel or heavy fuel oil.”
The opening of Arctic sea routes offers opportunities for the maritime industry, and is not least a chance for us to not repeat the same mistakes again when interfering with the environment. This time let’s plan to balance the needs of industry with those of nature.