Bringing the North and East Together

Three men, one shared goal: Cooperation across borders – and oceans. May 10, Polar explorer Børge Ousland, ship-owner Felix Tschudi and Victor Gao held a joint presentation about opportunities and challenges in the arctic region, sharing the wisdom of three lifetimes with a multi-cultural audience of students, professionals and academics.

In a joint effort between the Consulate General in Shanghai and the Norwegian Business Association (NBA), speakers Børge Ousland, Felix Tschudi and Victor Gao were invited for an evening event at the Peninsula Hotel. The main topic for the event was the Northeast Passage, an alternate shipping route to Asia from Northern Norway through the Bering Strait.

For the event at the Pensinsula Hotel, the speakers were introduced by Consul General Bjørn Blokhus and Geir Sviggum, chairman of the NBA. Ousland’s evening presentation focused on his sailing expeditions to the Arctic, illustrating his first-hand experience with the rapidly melting polar ice caps and the challenges of transit through the Arctic seas.

Tschudi, chairman and sole owner of Tschudi Shipping Company AS (TSC), described his pioneering efforts in popularizing use of the Northeastern Passage and promoting cooperation with Russia. Among his accomplishments is the first non-Russian shipment of iron ore through the Northeast Passage, completed last fall through Tschudi Arctic Transit, a subsidiary of TSC.

A well-known proponent of the route, Tschudi emphasized that even though knowledge, technology and services are still some ways from the high standards required by global shipping, they are improving rapidly and will quickly catch up with demand.

A win-win-win situation

The evening’s final speaker was Victor Gao (高志凯), former interpreter of Deng Xiaoping and Executive Director of the Beijing Private Equity Association. Gao, a dynamic speaker and experienced professional, considered the Northeastern Passage from a Chinese perspective, looking at ways China could contribute to and benefit from it. Distance-wise, transport through the North-East passage means that Norway would go from being the European country furthest away from China, over to being the closest. He further emphasized that Russia, Norway and China all stand to gain from summer shipments through the passage, and that realizing this latent potential might foster trilateral cooperation.

Gao raised several policy propositions, among them a Joint Norway-China Cooperation Committee and designating two harbors – one in Norway, one in China – for Sino-Norwegian cooperation in the Arctic.

Earlier the same day, Ousland gave an open lecture to an audience of 200 people at the Shanghai Luwan Teenagers Activity Centre. In his presentation, Ousland gave a brief introduction of his different expeditions, and the challenges he faced while traversing the hostile, frozen environments of the Polar Regions. Received with both fascination and spurts of raucous laughter, Ousland’s vivid tales of hardship and camaraderie prompted a host of questions from the Chinese audience.

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