New Arctic shipping lanes would dramatically affect current global trade patterns
Arctic shipping could also dramatically affect global trade patterns. In 1969, oil companies sent the S.S. Manhattan through the Northwest Passage to test whether it was a viable route for moving Arctic oil to the Eastern Seaboard. The Manhattan completed the voyage with the help of accompanying icebreakers, but oil companies soon deemed the route impractical and prohibitively expensive and opted instead for an Alaskan pipeline. But today such voyages are fast becoming economically feasible. As soon as marine insurers recalculate the risks involved in these voyages, trans-Arctic shipping will become commercially viable and begin on a large scale. In an age of just-in-time delivery, and with increasing fuel costs eating into the profits of shipping companies, reducing long-haul sailing distances by as much as 40 percent could usher in a new phase of globalization. Arctic routes would force further competition between the Panama and Suez Canals, thereby reducing current canal tolls; shipping chokepoints such as the Strait of Malacca would no longer dictate global shipping patterns; and Arctic seaways would allow for greater international economic integration. When the ice recedes enough, likely within this decade, a marine highway directly over the North Pole will materialize. Such a route, which would most likely run between Iceland and Alaska's Dutch Harbor, would connect shipping megaports in the North Atlantic with those in the North Pacific and radiate outward to other ports in a hub-and-spoke system. A fast lane is now under development between the Arctic port of Murmansk, in Russia, and the Hudson Bay port of Churchill, in Canada, which is connected to the North American rail network.