The Arctic Bridge Gateway
The Arctic Bridge - Key to Northern Development
As the 21st century progresses, the development of the Canadian Arctic and its vast resources is rapidly becoming a part of this country's efforts to expand and compete in the global marketplace. The exploration and harvesting of the natural wealth of this rugged land has placed it prominently in the international spotlight and new economic opportunities emerge regularly.
For Manitoba, as we seek to increase our participation in global commerce, the Arctic potential goes beyond the land-based opportunities. Against this backdrop of globalization, the province is looking at our Arctic potential from a different perspective, with the development of an Arctic bridge encompassing both air and sea connections between Russia and Canada.
What is the Arctic bridge? Manitoba is at one end of an international Arctic shipping route connecting Churchill, Manitoba—Canada's only major international Arctic seaport—to the Port of Murmansk, Russia. The Arctic bridge offers the opportunity to shorten shipping routes, open new trade avenues for Manitoba and Canada with international partners, reaffirm Canada's sovereignty position in the Arctic, and integrate northern Manitoba into the world trade framework.
Today, the Churchill Gateway Development Corporation, a public-private partnership of Manitoba, and OmniTRAX (a transportation leader in North America), are working to build diversified two-way traffic through the Port of Churchill. In 2007, the first inbound shipment from Russia was unloaded at Churchill. Plans are to expand future shipments and diversify the commodities shipped into and out of Churchill over the Arctic bridge to ensure that the port can be viable, competitive, and self-sustainable in the long-term.
The Arctic bridge represents a true international northern strategy. The Russian ambassador has publicly endorsed the Arctic bridge vision since 2003 and both Russia and Manitoba have recognized the potential benefits of the strategy.
A key element of the bridge's ability to attract international freight traffic results from capitalizing on the time and cost efficiencies associated with the notably shorter shipping distances between Murmansk and Churchill, as compared to other North American ports. The distance from Murmansk to Churchill is 3,763 nautical miles, or 13 days, two hours, whereas the route from Murmansk to Thunder Bay is 5,030 nautical miles, or 17 days, 11 hours. Similar distance and time savings can be realized between Churchill and Copenhagen and Algiers, making Manitoba's sea port the clear choice when seeking a shorter shipping route.
Both Russia and Manitoba will realize benefits from the northern economic and infrastructure developments that will be required to make Murmansk and Churchill into truly sustainable international ports. The growth of these ports could well open up further possibilities for northern development, including opportunities for local communities, other Arctic communities, and non-Arctic communities.
Within Manitoba, the developments required to support the northern port of Churchill correspond with our broader vision for the future of the province. This vision includes making the most of our natural advantages, such as our location in the geographical centre of Canada, an ideal position to become a national centre of east-west and north-south trade and transportation. We are also connected to the United States and Mexico via PTH 75 through the Emerson/Pembina crossing, one of the busiest border crossings in Western Canada, which handles approximately three-quarters of Manitoba's trucking exports to the two other NAFTA countries. Combining east-west cross-national and north-south cross-border trade routes, Manitoba intuitively becomes a natural and advantageous centre for international trade, manufacturing, distribution, warehousing, and logistics.
Our importance and value as an international transportation and distribution hub is even more pronounced when ground transportation routes are combined with Arctic bridge sea routes and international air routes to create an international cargo gateway in Winnipeg. Manitoba is pursuing just such a vision, including strengthening our relationship with Krasnoyarsk Kria province in Russia to expand polar air routes between James Armstrong Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg and the Krasnoyarsk Airport, thus linking trade in North America to Russia, Asia/India and Europe.
In the last edition of Western Canada Highway News, Manitoba introduced the CentrePort Canada initiative, Manitoba's vision of an inland port near the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg, supported by the governments of Manitoba and Canada through joint funding. CentrePort is a perfect fit for Manitoba, in recognition of our ideal central position and established transport infrastructure and services. CentrePort will be developed and promoted by a private-sector corporation created under provincial legislation passed in October 2008.
Manitoba strongly believes in the synergies that will develop between the CentrePort Canada and Arctic bridge connections of Murmansk-Churchill and Krasnoyarsk-Winnipeg. These Arctic-based supply chains will serve as highly efficient linkages to funnel air and ocean-based trade to and from CentrePort facilities, contributing to the success of the Arctic Port of Churchill, Canada's and Manitoba's northern development strategies, and our partners.
Over the next few years, Manitoba will be working with our global and federal partners to further develop and promote polar air routes and the development of a marine Arctic link between Russia and Manitoba. This will include establishing working groups, initiating test flights and shipments, and consulting stakeholders in the marine and air transport industries.
As increased global interdependency and commerce shape the modern marketplace, Manitoba is turning the challenge of Arctic development into an opportunity for northern Manitobans, the province, Canada, and for our international partners. By developing this strategic international Arctic shipping bridge and polar air routes to be supported by a diverse trade and transportation centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba is leading a sustainable and integrated approach to Arctic development within the global community. Ron Lemieux is Manitoba's minister of infrastructure and transportation.
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