Overcoming challenges facing Polar Silk Road

Author:Artur Gushchin Release date:2018-10-18 14:54:18Source:China Daily+Add to My Favorites


Members of China's research team set up an ocean profiling float at a short-term data acquisition location near the icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, in the Arctic Ocean, Aug 18, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

Ballast water is dangerous for the Arctic environment since it contains a variety of invasive species that constitute a menace to the fragile flora and fauna in the Arctic and can displace local organisms and creatures, thus changing the whole structure of the feeding system.

Implementing China's vision of a Polar Silk Road, therefore, requires solutions for ballast water treatment in order to make Arctic entrance for Chinese industries smooth and profitable. Ballast water management on the route from China to Europe has to address the issues of how to dispose of, how to clean and what mechanisms to apply in order to avoid illegal ballast water discharge in the Arctic.

The first two points raise concerns over additional fee charges in destination ports if ballast water be released under special procedures. This forces interested parties to find solutions under multilateral talks within Arctic Council. The third point highlights the importance of sensor technology that should be mandatory on every commercial carrier that plans to operate in the Arctic to send real-time data to deter violations.

This then raises the questions of who will be the provider of technologies and which country or international agency should take responsibility for the monitoring? Also how to calculate the potential and real damage in the event of an incident or emergency?

This leads to another key factor in successfully building a Polar Silk Road-the necessary scientific studies. Science in the Arctic is currently experiencing fundamental changes with the introduction of new technological solutions to make scientific data collecting cheaper, faster and more precise. Traditional methods of field trips are still relevant and occupy their niche, however, investments into unmanned remote controlled water vessels will change scientific research in the Arctic, especially remote underwater areas where a human presence would be too risky or expensive.

China should develop new types of unmanned vessels in order to realize the benefits they offer, including real-time data, the opportunity for fast retargeting of monitoring areas, easy installation and control, less personnel onboard support vessels, and real-time assessments (narrow lag between research and conclusion). China should follow this trend in order to acquire comprehensive data about the Arctic, as proven data will generate safer and faster route planning in Arctic waters and open new business opportunities in underwater mining. It would also establish conditions for fostering technological alliances with Western partners on equal terms.

Similarly, China's polar strategy documents reiterate the issue of laying submarine fiber-optic cables on the Arctic seabed. Arctic cables can play a decisive role in the long-term exploration of mineral deposits on the seabed, since they can become docking stations for unmanned underwater vessels, enable real-time data transmission, compile existing communication services into one system and lead to standardization of the Arctic market. It is also worth mentioning, that the service periods for cables should be long enough in order to reduce costs and omit repair in inappropriate periods in winter time or during floating ice period or strong winds. Arctic submarine cables also offer an opportunity for partnerships with other countries.

China should pay special attention to data-centers within the Arctic members that will accumulate all the information. Major IT companies in the world have already invested up to $1 billion to their construction in the region and are ready to double capacities within 5-10 years.

Meanwhile, pipelines and shipping will experience a technological revolution because of the need to utilize more distant deposits in the Arctic and apply more environmentally predictable methods of oil transportation by electric tankers. China should prioritize for itself how to enter these future profitable market to expand oil and gas variants for investments.

Practical national solutions for the above-mentioned challenges combined with Chinese financial resources would also help give China an increased voice in Arctic governance structures, investment alliances and environmental monitoring and thus help it realize its vision of a Polar Silk Road.

The author is a visiting scholar at Fudan Development Institute and a researcher in the Arctic at Akvaplan-Niva (Norway).

source: https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201810/18/WS5bc7c83ea310eff303282ffa.html

0Comments Comments Please speak rationally on the Internet