Supporters of an ambitious plan to build a railway between Rovaniemi in Finland and Kirkenes in Norway that would serve as an Arctic gateway for China’s Belt and Road project have submitted a report to Finnish and Norwegian authorities and are hopeful the project will be approved by early March.
The report, titled “Vision for an Arctic Railroad,” was delivered to Finnish and Norwegian transport officials on January 19. It’s one of several proposed Arctic rail links. “The national review will be finalized on February 28 and hopefully we will know who will win on March 1,” Timo Rautajoki, a representative of the Lapland Chamber of Commerce told Sør-Varanger Utvikling, a local development organization.
Asia Times reported last year that a group of Finnish business leaders and academics have proposed building a US$3.4 billion “Arctic Corridor” railway that would connect Northern Europe with China and Arctic Ocean deep-water ports. The rail link would connect the city of Rovaniemi in northern Finland with the Norwegian port of Kirkenes on the Barents Sea.
Kirkenes is the closest Western port to Asia along the Arctic’s Northern Sea Route. Under the plan, ships could move goods from China as well as oil and gas from Arctic fields in Russia westward along this northern route to Kirkenes. Cargos would be offloaded to the railway and sent southward through rail connections to Scandinavia, Helsinki, the Baltic states, Poland and St. Petersburg in Russia.
If officials are positive about the technical and feasibility issues, Finland and Norway are expected to begin discussing the project with China and other participants.
Project backers include the Finnmark County Municipality, Sør-Varanger, and Kirkenes Næringshage, a local business organization in Norway, as well as others.
Shorter than Suez
One of the big selling points for a “maritime silk route in the north” is that it would sharply reduce the distance, time and cost of cargo routes between Asia and Europe, which currently rely on the Suez Canal. The report reckons there will be a 40% reduction in sailing distance if the Northern Sea Route is used to connect Northern Europe (from Germany northwards) with China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.
There would likewise be a 20% cut in fuel consumption versus Suez with a resulting favorable environmental impact, according to the report.
“The new sea route, combined with the Arctic railway, would save on both time and emissions,” Timo Lohi, a spokesman for the Arctic Corridor project, told Asia Times.
Supporters say the Arctic rail project’s impact on trade will be equally huge. Assuming the railway can accommodate 10% of the current container trade from Asia to Northern Europe, the report projects that 10 southbound trains could leave Kirkenes daily for Finland and other southern points. Annually, this would amount to 550,000 containers trans-loaded per year – or 37,000 containers per month. The same number of containers (either empty or with export cargo) could be sent on the return leg to Asia.
Return cargo to Asia from Finland could comprise timber and biofuels. Norway boasts large volumes of mineral ore as well as products from its aquaculture and fisheries industries that would interest Asian clients.
The cargo estimates are based on a current 7.4-month Arctic navigation season in which the Arctic Ocean is sufficiently ice-free to be navigated by commercial shipping. Accessibility hits a high point during the summer months. But global warming is reducing ice floes in the region to historic lows, suggesting that the Northern Sea Route might eventually be navigable in winter.
“Climate change will melt ice and transport through the Northern Sea Route will become more profitable,” Lohi noted.
Container traffic between Asia and Europe is also expected to jump nearly threefold by 2040. “So even a share of 3-4% of the combined container imports from China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan to Northern Europe would generate comprehensive activity at the Port of Kirkenes and on an Arctic railway to Rovaniemi,” the report said.
Officials on board
The Arctic rail project appears to have the support of Finnish and Norwegian officials. Norwegian Transport and Communications Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen says he’s “very positive” towards the Finnish plan to build an Arctic rail link to Belt and Road.
Finnish Transport and Communications Minister Anne Berner said recently that preparations for the project will continue if official reaction to the January 19 report is positive.
Berner said previously that talks last year between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have created momentum for an “ice-Silk Road.”
" If officials are positive about the technical and feasibility issues, Finland and Norway are expected to begin discussing the project with China and other participants."
Are those "officials" the same that are now buying crappy F35 without building hangars ? And helping the Anglos build bases along Russia’s borders, and also financing the ukronazis ?
It is a good strategic move to have more than one route to any given destination.. Just a few days ago was another article of a maritime route through Thailand. Then there is the CPEC which gives China access to the Indian ocean through the Gwadar port.
Between rail and sea routes China is ensuring non stop trade even in the face of possible embargos that could limit the use of one route but not others.
It would appear that there are a few holes in the Washington Neo Plan to isolate China and Russia. They must be livid with this turn of events.
Should always proof read before posting. " Neo Con Plan"-
Looks to me like an expensive white elephant is shaping up. I cannot believe that Scandanavian planners could allow wild optimism triumph over practicality like that.
let say china possible , proven
The Scandinavians are a very practical people. They also love money. The money is in the East now. The West has shot it`s bolt and is a dying civilization. The Scandinavians are just looking at reality and jumping on the train before it leaves the station.
Thomas Daniel Kuhn Nicely said Thomas. Yet if the plan does not worked out as hoped the two Scandanavian nations shall find themselves with a massive debt for no reciprocal benefit.
More and more like a new version of globalisation. The current global way is being
opposed by American first policy turns. Sounds China and India are still crying to support the free trade policy, they get large surplus by labor intensive goods. That is the reason, free trade is not fair play, it produces winners and losers. It caused trade wars and human wars. China does not learn lessons from hitherto trade conflicts. They look to Belt and Road to sell their supply surplus, but it would mean life and death to others. Trump would not tolerate 500billion deficits any more , also others. Better turn more Belt and Road energy inwards, the domestic market would be more safe.
Not a word about Russia is going to make tons and tons of money if Arctic Silk Road starts – that whole endless road will go along Russia’s coasts, Russia’s Arctic ports will service it, Russai’s ice breakers will lead those ships. Wow!
They are…they’re apoplectic!
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