NPR logo Admiral Predicts Shipping Via An Ice-Free North Pole


Admiral Predicts Shipping Via An Ice-Free North Pole

Disappearing polar ice could mean that cargo ships will be regularly cutting across the top of the world on their run from Asia to Europe as soon as 2035, according to U.S. Rear Admiral Dave Titley.

Admiral Titley made the prediction, as reported by the Financial Times, at a conference in Norway. He is the head of the Navy's climate change task force.

Crossing through the Arctic via the North Pole would cut the shipping distance between Rotterdam and Yokohama by 40 percent, according to the article. But it's not without its dangers, as the FT notes:

"Highlighting the riskis facing the growing number of cruise liners taking tourists into Arctic waters, he said only luck had so far prevented a 'Titanic-scale disaster' in the region."

Reuters, reporting from the same "Arctic Frontiers" conference, quotes a Russian shipping official saying that moving cargo via the Arctic is already picking up steam, with the number of requests for assistance from atomic-powered icebreakers rising from four in 2010 to 15 in 2011.

As highlighted by Admiral Titley, The ice pack covering the North Pole has been shrinking and looks to continue on that path. Reuters reports:

Arctic sea ice shrank in summer 2010 to the third smallestsince satellite records began, after lows in 2007 and 2008. TheU.N. panel of climate scientists says that greenhouse gasemissions are very likely the main cause.