x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE firm sees opening in Arctic

A shipping services company based in Dubai is looking to capitalise on the effects of global warming with a new base close to the North Pole.

A shipping services company based in Dubai is looking to capitalise on the effects of global warming with a new base close to the North Pole. The base in the Svalbard archipelago, a territory controlled by Norway that is the northernmost point in Europe, will cater to oil exploration firms and to growing demand for new sea routes opened up by the melting of Arctic sea ice, said an executive of GAC Group, which provides fuel, freight handling and other services to shippers across the world.

"As the ice moves slowly further north, the shipping seasons will expand and the activity expand," said Ahmet Ozsoy, the managing director of GAC-ORO, the firm's Norwegian subsidiary. "And with anticipation of increased oil and gas activities, our presence in the region will enable us to meet the future requirements of our oil and gas clients." GAC advertises some unusual services for the harsh northern climate: it operates an air service that lands on huge chunks of floating ice, and offers "polar bear protection" for ships that berth outside of the islands' main ports.

An annual melting of part of the Arctic sea ice caused by global warming created a flurry of interest among shippers this year by opening up a sea route north of Russia that offers a shorter trip between Europe and East Asia. Two German ships this summer sailed from South Korea to the Netherlands via the route, shaving 10 days and more than 5,500 kilometres off the voyage. cstanton@thenational.ae