Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

Arctic Shortcut

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Over a year ago, I attended a shipper meeting in Europe with Glenn Koepke, General Manager – TMC Europe. The forum gathered together supply chain personnel from over 35 countries. The primary focus of the discussion was Global TMS. However, other topics of discussion naturally arose.

One such topic was the idea of an arctic shortcut. A large ocean line introduced the topic speaking of special hulls designed for breaking and ice, and enabling faster trade from Asia to the West by crossing the Arctic Ocean instead of traditional trade routes. 

This concept, as you may know, is no longer an idea. This journey has been made and initially reported in The New York Times September 2009 article titled “Arctic Shortcut Beckons Shippers as Ice Thaws”. In late July 2009, two ships left South Korea headed for a port in Rotterdam, not far from TMC’s European office in Amsterdam. The graphic is a map of the proposed route that previously represented the unthinkable.

During the discussion, I was surprised at the response from one of the shippers in attendance. In a time when most shippers would leap at the idea of shorter transit times and lower costs, this particular shipper was shocked and appalled. The discussion quickly turned from reduced costs to the protection of our natural resources, corporate ethics, and global warming. 

After the forum event was over, Glenn and I discussed how corporate ethics was increasingly rising to the front of discussions with clients. We discussed the challenge corporations have when weighing environmental ethics issues relative to business opportunities. Clearly, this has been a challenge forever. Yet, globalization, the information age, and developments like global warming present a whole new series of questions that haven’t been dealt with.

Last week, Ken Cottrill’s blog, “Deciding What’s Best” shared similar themes and insight-fully noted, “As society, we love to find and celebrate winners, and in a supply chain context, best practices are often associated with corporate champions.”

Of course, there is the lingering question as to whether or not businesses have developed criteria to define our “winners.” It does appear that more and more companies are heading down this path and aligning corporate values with best practices.

Were you aware of the Artic shortcut? What are your reactions? Have you seen best practices emerge in terms of aligning ethics with business strategy?

- President, Managed Services
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