Chinese commercial ships have Polar Silk Road ambitions

China has published its first white paper on Arctic policy, saying that it intends to establish a Polar Silk Road that will develop new shipping routes. China’s first commercial boat sailed the Arctic route from China to the Netherlands in 2013. The usage of the route is still limited, but China said in the policy statement that hopes it could become more regulated and frequently used in the future.

In 2013, Cosco’s Yongsheng made the first voyage and to date Cosco Shipping has sent a total of 10 boats carrying out 14 trips.

Foreign commercial ships on the northeast route mostly transport crude oil, gas and minerals, while China’s ships mostly transfer machinery, agricultural products and paper pulp. When travelling the route ships usually pay Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom for icebreaker ships and guiding services.

The Yongsheng was specially altered to suit the Arctic. Pipes were changed and a small electric boiler was added for extreme weather. She had a storage unit added to hold hundreds of tons of waste, so that none would leak into the Arctic Ocean.