STORY HIGHLIGHTS


Norways Polar Silk Road Links China

CNC
Added On March 13, 2018

Norway's Arctic town of Kirkenes sets its sight on a major European hub on a Polar Silk Road with link to China.
 
China Report takes you there. 
 
Finland and Norway announced on Friday plans to explore building an Arctic railway between Finland's northern city of Rovaniemi and Norway's ice-free port of Kirkenes.
 
This agreement came after Norway plans to develop new harbor and terminal areas near Kirkenes, a town in the Sor-Varanger municipality in Norway's northeastern county of Finnmark.
 
According to a study by the Finnish and Norwegian governments, the 520-km railway between Rovaniemi and Kirkenes would cost about 3.6 billion U.S. dollars and open in 2030.
 
It will form part of the proposed Arctic Corridor, which envisions cargo from Asia would be offloaded in Kirkenes and sent southward by railway to Finland, the Baltic states and the rest of Europe.
 
Local planners in Kirkenes have been lobbying the Norwegian town of Barents, 15 km west of the border with Russia, as the perfect site for a major hub linking the Arctic shipping route and the Arctic Corridor.
 
Rune Rafaelsen, mayor of the Sor-Varanger municipality, said the project dovetails well with China's Belt and Road Initiative.
 
SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH)RUNE RAFAELSEN, Mayor of Sor-Varanger municipality:     
"And this project with railway connected to the Belt and Road Initiative through the Northern Sea Route and the Arctic strategy of China fits very well into all the plans for a huge 'Barents Harbor'. And also in our city now, there are a lot of Chinese businessmen coming. So we look very positive to do business, and also develop a good relationship between Norway, Russia and China through the Northern Sea Route."
 
SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH)RUNE RAFAELSEN, Mayor of Sor-Varanger municipality: 
"I think also regarding logistic transport in the Arctic in the future, you are dependent to have good railroad that could reach Europe fast and Kirkenes is the first port when you come from China, so I think the link between China and Norway through Finland is very important. And also the biggest container harbors in the world, of the 10 biggest seven of them are in China. So I think cooperation between Norway and China is extremely important for transport and logistics in the Arctic."
 
Kenneth Stalsett, CEO of the Sor-Varanger Utvikling company, said Sor-Varanger, a municipality of about 10,000 with 6,000 of them in the Kirkenes area, cannot itself suffice for a railroad.
   
He noted that the Arctic railway is dependent on an international interest in using the Arctic shipping route.
 
SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH)KENNETH STALSETT, CEO of Sor-Varanger Utvikling company:
"We will see a massive development, and a lot of works and industrial players and big vessels coming in and out, some waiting to get unloaded, some to get loaded. And a lot of traffic in this area. So you can just image that we will have several ships in different sizes waiting to get in and out of the harbour. Both small ones going through the Northern Sea Route and probably some big ones as well, going to Europe or the rest of the world from Kirkenes. So that would be fantastic!"
 
SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH)KENNETH STALSETT, CEO of Sor-Varanger Utvikling company:
"So that is why we also say that this railroad is depending on the Chinese interest in our region. And also the international interest of using the Northern Sea Route where China has strong interest and is doing – they are in action already. We see that the Chinese are sending ships. They are developing ships and are talking about the Northern Sea Route in a positive way and the Arctic in a positive setting. So I think without this, the railroad will just be a dream in the future, but with it, it's absolutely doable and important."
  
According to a Norwegian report published in January, the vision for The Arctic Railway is to be able to offer an environment-friendly and faster transport alternative for goods between Northeast Asia and Northern Europe via Finland by utilization of the Northern Sea Route and development of Kirkenes as a hub port.
 
The report, which said the Arctic railway is potentially a new "maritime silk route in the north," was released just a few days before China published a white paper elaborating on its vision of a Polar Silk Road, an extension of the Belt and Road Initiative it proposed in 2013.
 
The Initiative's overland Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road are expected to promote the connectivity of policy, infrastructure, trade, investment and people in areas involved to seek common development and prosperity.