Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Russia eyes Canada route

with 3 comments

Vancouver Sun Business section July 30, 2007

A large delegation of officials from Russia’s Far Eastern Irkutsk province has just been scouting Ontario’s northern cities of Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury as destinations for air cargo routes into North America.

The item starts off with a rare shot at the Gateway strategy: normally one expects the Sun to be with the cheerleaders.

This is a short piece, but in discussions with neighbours, I have heard a lot about both the widening of the Panama Canal and the opening of the North West passage. I stress that these are neighbours and not activists or people with an axe to grind. Just ordinary people who keep themselves informed and wonder why we are hell bent on building up port and airport facilities to try to attract more of the US bound pacific trade when better routes are opening up all around us. The much touted time savings that the Gateway project touts for this region are illusory. Price Rupert is a more strategically located port, and one that would be much cheaper to expand. The widened Panama Canal will allow much larger ships to access east coast ports that are much closer to the main centres of the US market. And as the North West passage is now ice free year round, expect traffic to the east coast to look at that route too, as it saves huge distances – for example between Japan and New York.

Direct flights from Vancouver to Europe already fly over Greenland. That’s because the airlines can operate two engine planes as they are not out of sight of land for very long – and that saves them fuel. As more fuel efficient and longer range planes take to the skies expect to see more non-stop routes, which are understandably more popular with passengers, then “bus stop” routes through several hubs.

I understand boosterism and the power of positive thinking. But markets work with economic realities and these are changing, as the climate changes and others seek to provide a better way too. I have much less faith in the ability of our political leaders to do strategic planning as I have worked in that business for too long to expect them to exercise either long term thinking or critical faculties

Written by Stephen Rees

July 30, 2007 at 9:22 am

3 Responses

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  1. The NorthWest Passage is not open yet. Estimates range from 10 to 40 years until the passage is open for even 3 months out of the year.


    September 5, 2007 at 4:14 pm

  2. I hope you are right. Do these estimates include the melting of the Greenland ice sheet? The speed with which both polar ice sheets are retreating has been much faster than anticipated, as Al Gore discusses in “An Inconvenient Truth”

    I also found this in a quick Google search: Guardian August 28, 2007

    “Since August 21 the North-West Passage is open to navigation. This is the first time that it happens,” Nalan Koc, head of the Norwegian Polar Institute’s climate change programme, told reporters in Longyearbyen, a town in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.

    “The Arctic ice sheet currently extends on 4.9m square kilometres. In September 2005 it measured 5.3m square kilometers.”

    Stephen Rees

    September 5, 2007 at 7:36 pm

  3. It seems Josh is wrong

    Stephen Rees

    September 16, 2007 at 5:29 pm

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