Broke: Suez. Woke: NSR.

The blockage of the Suez Canal and the 12% of world cargo trade (1 billion tons of cargo per year) that flows through it raises the profile of an obvious and much shorter alternative that global warming is making increasingly attractive.

Arctic sea ice continues to retreat at a very rapid clip (currently running below the 2012 all-time minimum). Bad for the polar bears – good for global commerce.

Meanwhile, despite the challenges of being a gas station that produces no value added products, Russia is in the midst of a nuclear icebreaker construction spree that will make the Northern Sea Route navigable for most of the year. The LK-60Ya class includes three ships – Arktika, Sibir, and Ural – the first of which was commissioned in 2020, with the next two to follow this year and in 2022, respectively. There will eventually be five of them. This 33,540 ton displacement ship comes packed with a RITM-200 reactor generating 60 MW of propulsion power that can travel at 22 knots through clear water and is able to break ice up to 2.6 meters thick (vs. 2.2 meters for the Soviet-era Arktika class). There are plans for a series of even bigger icebreakers called the LK-120Ya (Leader) class, which will have propulsion power of 120 MW, travel at 24 knots in clear water and at 10-12 knots in 2 meter thick ice, and should have enough power to traverse any part of the Arctic Ocean all year round.

Even before this, Arctic shipping has been booming. Ports along the Northern Sea Route have seen a quadrupling of cargo since 2003 from 26.4 million tons in 2003 to 104.8 million tons by 2019 (if slipping to 96 million tons last year due to Corona). They now handle as much cargo every year as the entire Baltics, which have stagnated for more than a decade. Northern Sea Route freight routes began in the 1930s and reached a peak of 6.6 million tons of cargo transported in 1987, then declined to 1.5 million in the 1990s. In the past decade, though, they began a rapid recovery, reaching 4 million tons by 2014, 10 million tons in 2017, 20 million tons in 2018, 30 million tons by 2019, and 31.5 million tons in 2020. This represents a fivefold increase over peak Soviet rates, and unlike in the Soviet era, these are done under market conditions (i.e. we know they are profitable). Putin has set the goal of increasing this further to 80 million tons by 2025 and 120 million tons by 2030.

However, the most striking increase has been in Northern Sea Route transits, i.e. complete passages from Europe to East Asia. Though overall volumes remain low, the rate of increase has been astronomical (albeit with some sharp year to year variation). Though these began in the Soviet era, volumes were low at no more than a couple dozen ships carrying 200,000 tons per year. Meanwhile, after a false start in the early 2010s, there were 62 ships that made the journey in 2020 carrying 1.28 million tons of cargo. This is still only marginally above 0.1% of what passes through the Suez Canal, but given the much shorter distances (35%, or 5,000 km less) and no congestion issues, it is clearly the much more preferable option if the sea ice problem could be solved – which global warming and new generations of nuclear icebreakers are doing. So another way of looking at it is that there is huge scope for growth here. There is no reason why we shouldn’t see multiple OOM increases in NSR shipping up to the point of matching and even exceeding traffic along the Suez/Malacca route.

I called many of these developments in my 2012 article ARCS of Progress – the Arctic World In 2050. The cancelation of the natural resource supercycle in 2014 interrupted the rosier projections. Nonetheless, we seem to be getting back on track. The governor of Murmansk Dmitry Dmitriyenko’s prediction that cargo transport in the Northern Sea Route will increase tenfold by 2020 has come to pass – if anything, he was overly pessimistic (predicted 19 million tons, reality: 31.5 million tons).


Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

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  2. Shortsword says

    What’s the downsides? Can regular cargo ships and tankers handle the climate? Russia is building a number of ice class LNG carriers. How much more expensive to build and operate are ice class ships?

    China mentioned “polar silk road” in their latest five year plan. It will be interesting if they actually push for it.

  3. Bashibuzuk says

    The peculiar picture drawn by the Evergreen ship is indeed quite strange. I am wondering if the owners could perhaps say that the ship transponder / GPS beacon was hacked.

  4. Wouldn’t count that out tbh. Does that thing have some sort of autopilot? Because the entire wind blowing it aground kind of doesn’t check out. The damn thing is basically the size of a small town.

    Another alternative would be the Jordan Valley Inundation project, where you simply dig a sea-level canal using the Kishon river valley, and let the Mediterranean flood the entire Dead Sea depression.

    Then, dig another canal, (probably using locks since it’s a few hundred meters above sea level) from the resulting sea to the gulf of Aqaba.

    The big lake should be a sort of constant evaporator and bring higher rainfall to the region, Israel gets a rather impenetrable border with the Arabs, and generally everyone is happy.

    Well, except the Christians and religious people. Since the Jordan river would basically cease to exist, all the way to the sea of Galilee.

  5. Erik Sieven says

    the question is whether trade between China and Europe will grow in the next decades or not. Right now both side seem to be interested to build up production capacities at home to be less independent from each other.

  6. Hyperdupont says

    Does Russia get revenue from Northern sea route transit? Can it be monetized?

  7. Bespoke: TransEurasian Rail

    While volumes were rapidly rising from the outset, nobody could have foreseen the drastic increase that happened in 2020. Some 12,400 cargo trains traversed the Eurasian landmass in 2020, explains Kowitzki, moving over 1 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) between two of the planet’s most dynamic economies – an almost 50% year-on-year rise from 650,000 TEU in 2019. In November 2020 alone, the number of China-Europe freight trains reached 1,238, up 64% year-on-year, to transport 115,000 TEU, up 73% from the previous year, the Belt and Road Portal reports. According to Martin Holst-Mikkelsen, Head of Europe Ocean Freight at Flexport, Asia-Europe rail volumes now command 5%-6% of the region’s total transport capacity.

    This led to a scenario in which ocean shipping not only had longer lead times but also became more unpredictable, driving more shippers to try out trans-Eurasian rail, the schedules of which have remained intact – in fact, capacities even grew to meet increasing demand. Rail rates have usually been only twice as expensive as sea transport between China and Europe – often a negligible difference when looking at the value of the products being shipped – and the added bonus of reliable 23- to 25-day delivery times have enticed many to make the change.

    Nippon Express, Japan’s top logistics company, will double the freight trains it operates between China and Europe [in 2021], eager to capture rising customer interest in shifting from air to rail.

    Nippon Express now runs 23 round-trip routes between China and Europe in cooperation with local train operators. The mainstay Xi’an-Duisburg route, the Shanghai-Hamburg route and the Qingdao-Budapest route take about 25 days.

    Danish company A.P. Moller – Maersk, the world’s largest container-shipping operator, made its AE19 offering — a combination of a short-sea and intercontinental rail transport — a permanent weekly service in September.

    The service takes cargo from ports in South Korea, Japan or China to the port of Nakhodka in the Russian Far East via sea, then transports it by train to northern Europe via the Trans-Siberian Railway. It also goes in the other direction.

    AE19 debuted in July 2019 as a monthly service and later became fortnightly. The latest expansion owes to increased customer interest.

  8. What are the odds Egypt will fight a war over water by 2040? And will it loose against a Sudanese-Ethiopian combo, if it fights, or is it far-fetched that North Africans could lose to Ethiopians? Can we predict it all by looking at ancient monuments?

  9. Global warming to desertify Northern China and Southern Siberia, the taiga and the permafrost if it warmed will still not be suitable for agriculture for centuries. And if you have ever lived in the tropics you would prefer a little ice age over warming anyway.

  10. Bashibuzuk says

    Another alternative would be the Jordan Valley Inundation project

    Wouldn’t it entail salt water getting into the underground water table and negatively impacting the agriculture?

  11. I missed this news, but I guess Egypt and Sudan signed a military agreement on March 2nd, which makes me wonder at the possibility of a quicker resolution. I imagine that they could do it all by dropping bombs – no occupation needed.

  12. AlexanderGrozny says

    Arabs always lose wars in modern times. It is a noticeable trend that Arab majority countries always have a really poor martial track record. This is due to military tribalism and the fact that Arab leaders, afraid of being ousted in coups, often castrate their senior officers and their mechanisms to command troops.

  13. sher singh says

    Pajeets to new Based World Order: You’re welcome.

    Arabs always lose wars in modern times.

    Soviet Analysis of Arab Armies during Cold War, FYI.

  14. Interestingly, the now-infamous Evergreen and other shipping companies pledged not to use the NSR.

    The Arctic Shipping Corporate Pledge invites companies to commit to not intentionally send ships through this fragile Arctic ecosystem. Today’s signatories include companies Bestseller, Columbia, Gap Inc., H&M Group, Kering, Li & Fung, PVH Corp., and ocean carriers CMA CGM, Evergreen, Hapag-Lloyd and Mediterranean Shipping Company.

    Through this pledge, Nike and Ocean Conservancy hope to inspire others in using their collective voices to help prevent a problem before it starts.

    Ocean Conservancy is a Washington DC-based NGO.

    The most important non-Russian shipping company invested in using the NSR is COSCO.

    As in previous years, COSCO shipping company of China was the busiest international operator along the NSR after Russian-flagged vessels. In 2020, the company received permits for eight of its vessels to travel across the NSR in one or both directions.

  15. James Braxton says

    A nuclear icebreaker seems like a heck of a value added product to me.

    AK: 😉


    If you are looking at a 3 degree warming, the last time that occurred was in the Pliocene, when much of the Amazon was grassland, and Northern China and Siberian were steppe climate. Also how would the melting of the Himalayan glaciers affect the flow of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers?

  17. Could it have been avoided with automation? Even of tugs?

  18. Daniel Chieh says

    What do you think?

  19. So climate precipitation North of the Yangtze due to climate change would lead to semi arid conditions.

  20. Daniel Chieh says

    China will be fine. If there’s one thing which China seems repeatedly capable of in history, it is vast geoengineering projects.


    blockquote>The myth concerns a Foolish Old Man of 90 years who lived near a pair of mountains (given in some tellings as the Taihang and the Wangwu mountains, in Yu Province). He was annoyed by the obstruction caused by the mountains and sought to dig through them with hoes and baskets. When questioned as to the seemingly impossible nature of his task, the Foolish Old Man replied that while he may not finish this task in his lifetime, through the hard work of himself, his children, and their children, and so on through the many generations, some day the mountains would be removed if he persevered. The gods in Heaven, impressed with his hard work and perseverance, ordered the mountains separated.

  21. I’m thinking, “yes.”

  22. Verymuchalive says

    Of course, the Egyptian Government could build new locks and channels, and widen and deepen existing channels, thereby doubling capacity and permitting the use of much bigger ships. Blockages would be a thing of the past.
    Just like Panama.

    What’s wrong with these Arabs? Panama’s largely mestizo and less than 10% white.

  23. As long as China doesn’t allow erosion upriver as a result of deforestation and defloration of vegetation. And rebuilds all their buildings to be able to accommodate and even float on floodwaters.

    Its often the large flooding that gets them.

  24. You know that the Suez was already expanded a few years ago right?

  25. Does Russia get revenue from Northern sea route transit? Can it be monetized?

    That’s why they are investing so heavily in icebreaker fleet. The ocean might be free, but breaking the ice ahead of merchant ships is not.

  26. Does that thing have some sort of autopilot? Because the entire wind blowing it aground kind of doesn’t check out. The damn thing is basically the size of a small town.

    That’s why the wind is a factor – the ship is loaded sky-high with containers, so it presents very large side area for the wind to push against. And while all ships have autopilots, they are not precise enough to drive the ship through a canal that is narrower than the ship is long, as is the case here.

    This accident was probably a combination of wind, and some sort of human error. Such as the pilot not paying enough attention…

  27. Boomthorkell says

    I think the dead sea was a seabed at one point, so maybe it already isn’t in a position to pollute the water table.

    Maybe they should instead just use solar or nuclear power to desalinate water and dump it in the desert until a lake forms, or just irrigate it until natural forests grow that can firm up the soil and then survive on their own.

  28. Verymuchalive says

    Obviously not enough if it’s still being blocked.

  29. Blinky Bill says

    The ocean might be free, but breaking the ice ahead of merchant ships is not.

    I wonder if there will be any service fee for protecting Chinese Cargo Carriers from “PRIVATEERS”.

    I suspect there will be, whether directly or otherwise.

  30. If the West seriously decouples with China then that Northern Sea route from Asia to Europe is not going to be very useful. Japan and Korea may prize their alliance with the UAS over a shorter route through Russian waters.

  31. There is always the Northwest passage through Canada for Western allies?

  32. Shortsword says

    The blocking is an extraordinary event. Before this, how many ships were taking the route around Africa because the canal was too congested?

  33. Californian Candidate says
  34. Verymuchalive says

    You describe the blocking as “extraordinary”. It looks like it will block the Canal for weeks.

    It has happened once, so it is likely to happen again. So it may not be “extraordinary” for very long.
    Certainly, the Panama Canal seems much better designed and run than Suez.

  35. AKAHorace says

    There is always the Northwest passage through Canada for Western allies?

    A much trickier route as it means navigating through an archipelago with narrow straights. The Canadian govt is not keen on it and does not have nearly enough icebreakers to maintain it.

  36. So tricky that ships departing a Canadian Arctic port preferred to use the NSR.

    More challenging ice conditions in the Canadian Arctic resulted in a reduction of transit traffic compared to last year. The Northwest Passage saw only eight transits compared to 27 such voyages last year. In fact, a number of ships decided to travel from the Canadian Arctic across the North Atlantic to utilize the NSR on their journey to Asia.

    At least five ships, including three by Nordic Bulk Carriers, departed from Baffinland’s Milne Port with iron ore destined for Asia and utilized the unconventional routing with the NSR.

  37. reiner Tor says

    31.5 million tons this year

    Until March 26? That’s basically a quadrupling of the 2019 level, very nice!

    AK: Meant 2020, sorry.

  38. reiner Tor says

    What I heard it was probably out of boredom while they were waiting. Apparently there is often some traffic jam and while waiting they might need to go in circles anyway, so they might as well draw penises.

  39. Perhaps, not an inducement to join the Russian military.

  40. reiner Tor says

    Just wondering, does the capacity and technology to build such gigantic nuclear-powered icebreakers have perhaps military applications? Could it be good news for the Russian navy? I know that Karlin is the biggest fan of aircraft carriers, and he’d be the happiest person in the world if he was taxed heavily so that his government could build such capital ships.

    The reactors on these biggest future nuclear icebreakers are almost half the size of the A1B powerplants of the Ford-class carriers, while the displacement is about two thirds of it. I guess doubling their size is not an easy task.

    There was talk of a new Russian nuclear-powered destroyer, it’s unclear if it will ever be built. But I think that once enough civilian ships of the same size get built (not just icebreakers but other ships like tankers – they greatly expanded the Zvezda shipyard to be able to build tankers, I guess they also thought about building capital ships later), building the occasional destroyer or cruiser (and eventually a carrier) is inevitable.

  41. It’s curious how there are no civilian ships with nuclear engines. Obviously, engines can be built fairly small, if you look at something like the NR-1.

    I guess it must all come down to politics, and who would want to insure a nuclear ship? But it makes me wonder about the economics of it. Perhaps, a polar route by the coastline of a non atomophobic country would make it more politically possible. At least, one wouldn’t have to worry about Somali pirates trying to steal it.

  42. Because your average commercial crew vessel can maintain a nuclear reactor, or for Maersk pay 200000 USD on average per crew a year just to get the right people for your container ship’s nuclear reactor maintenance.

  43. I assume it would be maintenance-free. Sealed, like the ones that the Japanese were talking about building and burying in the ground, under streets.

  44. AltanBakshi says

    In India, not a long time ago, there really lived such a man like the Old foolish man of the Chinese tales.

  45. widugastiR says

    Aker Arctic has an interesting new design of a icebreaking container ship that can manage to traverse the Northern Sea route year-around:

  46. Personally I don’t know anything about the shipping industry or have ever met people from this industry, but I recently listened to a deflationary talk about the Northern Sea Route, on YouTube.

    If the speaker in the YouTube video is accurate, then we were predictably overexcited about it due the media’s typical hypebeasting, at least as an alternative to Suez Canal.

    He says it will be a kind of an express route in the summer, but with higher costs and small volumes of shipping. So there will be growth on the route, aided by warming weather, but it will be economically viable only for certain niche products.

    So, if his view is accurate, then Suez Canal will continue as the main shipping route between East Asia and Europe, and Northern Sea Route will become a small niche route for express deliveries this century.

    As for alternative routes, probably China is investing in them as a kind of diversification, and hedging, that will be useful for them, in addition to, rather than instead of, the Suez Canal. And there will perhaps be investing to further widen the Suez Canal in the future.

  47. I’d like to see a sci-fi/horror movie set on one of these large container ships. Ideally, also featuring one of Russia’s new fancy nuclear-powered icebreakers – with the excuse that one or two need to circle the ship to prevent a creature from escaping.

  48. mark green says

    What military ‘expert’ listed Israel’s military power beneath Egypt’s? Is this a joke of some kind?

    Israel crushed Egypt in its ‘preemptive’ 1967 war and Israel is widely viewed as far stronger than any nation in the entire Middle East. After all, Israel is that region’s sole nuclear power.

    The Jewish State also enjoys unique access to America’s most formidable weapons, not to mention full-on, US diplomatic sway.

    On a more subtle level, Israel also garners unique sympathy from Washington/Hollywood whenever it finds itself imperiled, which is constantly. Lobbyists in Washington and producers in Hollywood are always working for Israel and producing ‘information’ for public consumption as well securing an immense and steady flow of money for the Jews Only entity.

    This cozy ‘special relationship’ keeps Americans interested/brainwashed involving matters concerning Israeli security. Oh the poor Jewish darlings!

    Basically, Washington is Israel’s well-trained attack dog whenever needed.

    US obedience to Israel was demonstrated when Washington came to Jewry’s aid in the 1973 war, even though that distant struggle resulted in a crippling oil embargo that decimated the entire US economy.

    No worries. Sacrifices must be made. Israel comes first.

    To this day, Washington demonstrates an obedient readiness to crush/destabilize nations which are hostile to the Jewish state (Iraq, Libya, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and more.)

    Since Israel virtually controls Washington and enjoys unrivaled sympathy throughout the West via Zionized global mass media (as well as the purchase of US politicians), the case can be made that Israeli power (military and otherwise) is in a class by itself.

    Backwater nations such as Pakistan and Egypt don’t come even close to equaling Israel’s shrewd military readiness and worldwide political maneuvering.

  49. It’s curious how there are no civilian ships with nuclear engines

    I think there is a combination of factors at play. Politics is one, as is the reality that such ship might not be allowed in many ports.

    Then there is the economics – reactors are costly.

    Finally, there is simply no need. Conventional engines provide sufficient power for commercial vessels; the biggest advantage of nuclear reactor is effectively unlimited range, but that is not of great benefit for commercial ships that go from port to port anyway.

    That’s why nuclear reactors are really only used in two applications: military (for their range and independence they offer) and icebreakers (which really do need all the power they can get in order to break the ice).

  50. Then there is the economics – reactors are costly.

    I was expecting some special economy in Russia, but I guess these things cost more than I thought. Estimated 127.5 billion rubles for the first Lider.

    Though, I imagine it is over-engineered and someone could build an assembly-line plant that could be duel-purpose ship engine/ local ground-based power plant.

    I was thinking mainly about fuel costs. Over 25-30 years lifetime of a ship, probably adds up. Might be a certain strategic value to having a few, anyway.

  51. Yeah, they are costly. Compare these two recently built aircraft carriers: Nuclear-powered Gerard. R Ford cost something like 13.5 billion dollars, while conventional Queen Elizabeth cost “only” 3.5 billion. That’s large difference and sure, there are other factors at play. Ford is larger (though not 4 times larger!), it has those advanced electromagnetic catapults while Queen Elizabeth has none, etc, etc. Still, a lot of that cost difference must be due to conventional vs. nuclear propulsion systems.

  52. Civilian ships with nuclear reactors existed and one of them is still active.

    Most of the ships passed the waters of the NSR without difficulties. The fastest of all the NSR crossed was a nuclear container ship “Sevmorput” – 5.9 days, the slowest was the ship “Callisto” – 13.8 days.×610.jpg

  53. The Japanese one apparently became a museum, which ought to really put Russians to shame for not having any decommissioned nuclear subs on display.

  54. If you really want to visit one, you will able to do that in the future.

  55. Thanks, that’s good news! Always wanted to see an Alfa with its titanium hull too, but I’m guessing they already took them all apart. Maybe, an Akula would do. I think the two subs together would be a big tourist draw.

  56. Daniel Chieh says

    I remember reading that story a few years ago and the resemblance was immediate.

    An inspiring example in many ways.

  57. Blinky Bill says
  58. reiner Tor says

    Are you planning to update these before the Second Russo-Ukrainian War, the Taiwan War or the Third World War? All three might be scheduled for this year, and imagine them breaking out without a fresh CMP score rankings list..!

  59. Suez canal was blocked for 8 years from 1967-75.See yellow fleet

  60. demografie says

    Only idiot would think that nsr would replace suez canal. It would give logistic companies more options.

  61. Could the blockage have been prevented with a <20 minute IQ test? Perhaps, a <5 minute wordsum?

    On the same day, there was a fatal train crash that could have also probably been prevented this way, or by automation.

  62. SIMP simp says

    NSR could be a strategically interesting alternative for S Korea and Japan if their shipping lines through the South China Sea are threatened by China.

  63. The proposed idea would indeed use solar power to evaporate the sea water. What do you think sunshine is?

  64. Boomthorkell says

    Did you mean my proposed idea, or the Jordan Valley Inundation Project idea?

    Oh, that was actually a bit of a joke on my part…countries in the Middle East and such regions as Australia are actually in an ideal position to do “Solar” desalination (meaning letting the sun evaporate the water and collecting the purified water elsewhere.) I just said Solar Power because it was both an easier shorthand…and it kind of made me snicker.

    I’m not quite sure on the scaling of it, but frankly, I’m surprised Australia and Saudi Arabia haven’t been dumping (not literally) a cheaply desalinated seas worth of water on their deserts and turning them into giant, irrigated gardens.

  65. Ice free Arctic and warmer climate should also have extremely positive impact on river transport and development of otherwise land-locked Inner Siberia.

    According to this article, water transport costs for Siberian grain are 40% less than railway transport costs. Siberian rivers, especially Ob becoming more navigable will create a more cost effective way for Russia to export stuff grown, mined or manufactured there.

    All that would be needed would be upgrading Siberian river infrastructure and adding more capacity to Arctic ports, which Russia is already upgrading. Main problem now appears to be that Ob while large, has pretty shallow parts, with ship draught of only 3 meters allowed. There appears to be a project of increasing the draught riverwide up to 5m, which will allow much larger ships to sail deeper inland. 2 meters of draught does not seem like much, but it matters quite a lot.

    For illustration, take this Eu document

    and compare the shipping tonnage and their draught and see how much those extra two meters matter
    In the not so distant future when the combination of global warming and investment due to rising food prices open up milions of acres of arable land in Siberia, this riverway(s)- in combination with railroads bridging the gaps could become a new commercial artery and feed the NSR even more.

    Some other nations want to join the party

    PS: Mr. Karlin, If you wrote about it already, feel free to delete the comment

  66. Could the blockage have been prevented with a <20 minute IQ test? Perhaps, a <5 minute wordsum?

    This desire to provide a simple answer and a single (preferably non-white) person to blame is understandable, but things don’t always work out that way. At the moment there is no evidence of incompetence or wrong-doing on part of either pilots or the crew; possibly human error played a part, but there is no information available.

    In any case even if mistakes were made, the problem is much bigger than that. Container ships have simply gotten too large and the JIT global economy reached the point of insanity with margins for error so thin even the smallest hiccup makes the whole system grind to a halt.

    Here’s a possible test question:

    “Is it a good idea to stack thousands of containers 20-high on a ship 400m long and sent it through a canal 300m wide Y/N?”

  67. This desire to provide a simple answer and a single (preferably non-white) person to blame is understandable

    I wouldn’t put it all on race – a white tranny crashed a train in Boston about a dozen years ago.

    but there is no information available.

    These investigations are typically pretty glacial, but I’m going with my gut – I bet it all on human error being a part of it. Usually, a safe bet.

    “Is it a good idea to stack thousands of containers 20-high on a ship 400m long and sent it through a canal 300m wide Y/N?”

    Well, there’s some discussion about how the ships have gotten bigger but not the tugs. Of course, it’s reasonable to want to maximize efficiency and economy. If someone didn’t put wind into the simulator, then they didn’t do their job properly. I’m guessing that they did do it, but nobody factored in human error. That may have been a mistake. Probably avoidable with automation.

  68. Just the first part of your question, “Is it a good idea to stack thousands of containers 20-high on a ship 400m long….” can be answered, apparently, increasingly NO.

    Ship size and number of containers matter.

  69. Blinky Bill says

    In 2015, Sundrop Farms constructed a 20 hectare solar-powered greenhouse facility near its original site, south of Port Augusta in South Australia. This facility, completed in 2016, produces over 15,000 tonnes of truss tomatoes (on the vine) each year to supply the Australian supermarket operator Coles under a ten-year contract.

    Sundrop Farms operations are primarily powered by a concentrated solar thermal power plant and seawater withdrawn from Spencer Gulf and desalinated to feed produce. The project was expected to generate around 100 jobs during the construction of the greenhouse facility (in 2015) and approximately 200 jobs once operational. In 2014, private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts invested $100 million in the company.

    The development was supported by the Government of South Australia which provided approximately $6 million in grant funding. A $150 million development contract was awarded to John Holland in 2014 to construct the expanded facility over an 18-24 month time-frame and the total project cost is an estimated $205 million.

    The $175 million, highly productive “farm” opened in June 2016 and produces 10-15 per cent of Australia’s truss tomatoes. In May 2019, it was sold to Morrison and Co.

    The primary inputs to a greenhouse are heat, electricity, water, and nutrients. The Sundrop System is a collection of technologies which, when used in combination, reduce the need for finite resources in these inputs versus conventional greenhouse production. In Sundrop Farms’ first facilities in South Australia, these technologies include concentrated solar power, thermal desalination, and steam-driven electricity generation. This is the first combined heat, power, and water system powered by solar energy for greenhouse production.

    Concentrated solar power

    Sundrop Farms’ 20 hectare expanded facility is powered by an Integrated Energy System based on the concentrated solar power (CSP) technology. The system is designed and delivered by Danish renewable energy specialist, Aalborg CSP, and it is the first large-scale CSP-based technology in the world to provide multiple energy streams – heating, fresh water and electricity – for horticultural activities. The 51,500m2 solar field comprises eSolar’s Solar Collector System. Commissioned in October 2016, the facility’s concentrated solar thermal plant peak heat production rate is 39 MW, and desalinates water while producing 1.5 MWe of electricity.

    Desalination plant

    Sundrop Farms’ original pilot facility desalinated seawater but did not return waste brine to Spencer Gulf. The brine was collected in ponds from which salt could be harvested. The company’s brine management plan changed with its 20 hectare expansion in 2014. Sundrop Farms sought and received approval from the South Australian Environment Protection Authority to discharge waste brine into Spencer Gulf at a salinity of 60 parts per thousand. The expanded facility discharges its brine into the cooling water outflow channel previously used by the coal-fired Port Augusta power stations.

    Environmental approval from the Commonwealth Government via referral under the EPBC Act was not required of or sought by Sundrop Farms for this project. Sundrop Farms continues to investigate commercially viable solutions for the recovery of minerals from brine at a large scale.

  70. Well, bribes are the way of life over there so I’m not exactly shocked by those revelations. Anyway, shipping companies already pay extortionate amounts to Egyptian government (hundreds of thousands of dollars per transit for a ship of this size), so maybe they should just budget that little bit extra for a carton of ciggies for the pilot and be done with it…

    What isn’t so easy to solve is the problem of steering…

    The largest ship ever built was a tanker called “Seawise Giant” (among a number of other names). It was 458m long and had tonnage of 260,000GT. Ever Given is somewhat smaller but comparable in size at 400m and 220,000GT. Now, it is said that Seawise Giant had a turning circle of over 3km (about 2 miles) and stopping distance of 9km (from its max speed of16 knots)
    As I said Ever Given is a bit smaller but basically in the same ballpark, so this should give you some idea how difficult it must be to drive a ship of this size through 300m-wide canal… and that’s before adding gusts of wind as an extra complication.

  71. Blinky Bill says
  72. Where is Spain?

  73. In the video, Marten Van den Bossch claims that the Northern Sea Route will be a small niche trade route for small specialized ships, for express deliveries (due to time saving of 12-14 days) during certain times of the year, but that it will not be anything significant for the global shipping industry of large cargo ships, due to far higher costs, limited seasons for operation, less navigability, more unpredictable weather, and therefore higher insurance costs. He says the route has a lot of media hype from journalists, but it will be economically a minor route, relative to global trade.

    But in the Russian media, there was hypebeasting about how this route is certain to generate large economic wealth, and a redirection of global trade, and I had expected this myself as someone who knows nothing about shipping industry. (Of course, by the time you are in your 20s, a person should be immunized to this hypebeasting, which is usually a kind of temporary consumable junk food product designed to boost the audience’s emotions.)

  74. Boomthorkell says

    Thank you Blinky, this is beautiful.

    Now they just need to do it to the whole Outback, and we should do this in the regions here of Shitdesert. Leave the Aquifers alone, irrigate with Ocean, and everyone can have a nice walk through a wild desert-cum-garden.

    Starting with the economically-viable farming units is reasonable, I guess.

  75. The NSIDC artcic ice info is misleading because it starts in a high ice year, 1981. They omit the satellite data from the 70’s because it disrupts their narrative.

    Polar bear populations do just fine in low ice years, which is why their populations are so high right now.