Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE) - Russia and China are concentrating resources on the Northern Sea Route along Russia’s coast line that cuts the transportation time from parts of Asia to Europe by 5,500 kilometers.
Russia plans to build another nuclear icebreaker, the Leader, designed to keep the Northern Sea Route, along with the country's Arctic coast, open all year round. With its 30 diesel and four nuclear icebreakers, itis the primary operator in the Arctic.
At the same time China is working to develop a 33,069-ton nuclear icebreaker, designed to operate in ice-covered waters, that would be even bigger than the nuclear-powered vessels built by Russia.
The state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group is accepting bids from Chinese companies interested in building the 152-meter ship, according to the South China Morning Post.
The experimental ship, which would be China’s first nuclear-powered surface vessel, would travel at a max speed of 11.5 knots, or just over 13 miles per hour, according to the SCMP, Currently, only Russia has nuclear icebreakers in service — both Russia and China decided to develop the technology to help them expand their presence in the Arctic Ocean.
China has not specified how it plans to use the ship once it’s built. Rather, SCMP reports that the China General Nuclear Power Group has only referred to the project as an “experimental ship platform.” In a typically cautious approach,it could be an experimental vessel to pave the way for nuclear-propelled aircraft carriers.
The Northern Sea Route also has the advantage of avoiding the maritime bottle-necks like the Malacca Straits, dominated by the US navy.