From Arctic voyages to the effects of natural disasters, we’ve been keeping track of the news that reflect the important issues affecting the maritime industry. Here are a few stories from the past week.

Arctic voyage opens way for ‘ice rush – Earlier this week, the Financial Times and other sources reported that a tanker carrying liquefied natural gas has become the first ship of its kind to sail across the Arctic, in a sign of how climate change is opening up new routes for commercial shipping and reshaping global trade. Global warming is melting the polar ice cap. Satellites have shown the amount of ice covering the region during the summer months gradually declining over the past three decades. The shrinking of the Arctic ice is, however, opening new transport and trade opportunities that could revolutionise shipping. Using the Arctic route can cut journey times by 40 per cent compared with the Suez Canal, according to Tony Lauritzen, commercial director of Greece- based Dynagas Ltd. Since the frozen ground within the Arctic Circle is warming, too, the region is also attracting increasing interest from oil majors and mining companies, as well as the transport and communications groups that support them. Environmentalists worry that exploiting the Arctic’s mineral resources could damage what is still largely a near-pristine wilderness. It is paramount to strike a balance between pursuing commercial opportunities and protecting the marine environment.

U.S. vessel to investigate seismic damage to Chile’s ocean floor – The U.S. Navy is set to begin the third leg of a collaboration project with the Chilean Navy’s Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service (SHOA) to investigate the possible alterations to the ocean floor caused by the February 27th, 2010 earthquake and tsunami, reported The Santiago Times. The investigation will continue to focus on the Bay of Concepción and the Gulf of Arauco around the small peninsula of Talcahuano. The city of Talcahuano was of one the areas most devastated by the natural disasters, which left an estimated 80 percent of local residents homeless. The USNS Pathfinder, one of six Navy oceanographic survey vessels, is equipped with wide-angle sonar systems that allow it to chart a broad section of the ocean floor. The data collected will be used to update nautical charts and improve navigation safety.

Next Generation System Targets Rapid Natural Hazard WarningsThe Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California has published a report on NASA funded research it has been recently working on. The research aims to dramatically improve alerts for earthquakes, tsunamis, extreme storms and flooding events by fusing GPS and seismic data. Along with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Central Washington University and other organisations, Scripps is working to develop next-generation high-tech tools within a novel real-time alert system to accelerate early warnings for potentially disastrous events. Using real-time seismic and GPS instruments, researchers can compute the geometry, size and faulting pattern of large earthquakes in less than three minutes. These “rapid source characterization” models improved retroactive assessments of earthquake magnitude and geometry and allowed the researchers to ascertain the type of earthquake, which could provide more accurate and timely warnings of the severity of the impeding tsunami and assist first responders with evacuation and recovery efforts. “High precision GPS is the perfect complement to seismic data,” said Diego Melgar, a Scripps graduate student. “It is an invaluable tool that can rapidly assess the true dimensions of large and very large events in seconds to minutes…”

If you have read anything interesting this week that you’d like to share, please let us know.

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