America’s first deep-water port for Arctic cruise ships and military installations

Anchorage, Alaska – A cruise ship with about 1,000 passengers was docked off the coast of Nome and was too big to squeeze into the small port of the tundra city. Wealthy tourists had to board small boats to reach the shore again.

That was in 2016, and at the time, cruise ship serenity It was the largest ship ever to sail the Northwest Passage.

But as the pressures of global warming loosen Arctic sea ice and open up shipping routes across the top of the world, more tourists flock to Nome, a popular destination in northwestern Alaska. It’s like Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race And the Gold Rush of 1898 is better than luxury travel.

The problem remains that there is nowhere to park a large boat. Smaller cruise ships can dock, but officials say half of the dozen that will arrive this year will dock offshore.

Things are expected to change as Nome, with a population of 3,500, will become the country’s first deep-sea port in the Arctic, with an expansion project worth more than $600 million. The expansion is expected to be operational by the end of 2010 and will accommodate large cruise ships carrying up to 4,000 passengers, as well as cargo ships to deliver additional supplies to 60 Alaska Native villages in the region. and warships to counter attacks by Alaska Natives. Presence of Russian and Chinese ships in the Arctic.

While the prospect is exciting for Nome business owners and officials, it is also a concern for others concerned about the impact of increased tourism and shipping traffic on the environment and animals on which Alaska Natives depend for their livelihoods.

The expansion “will support the local economy and the local artists here. Indigenous artists will be able to reach out to visitors, teach and share our culture, our language and how to create beautiful art,” Inupiak said. Resident Alice Beoff said. gnome.

Bioff was the tour guide who greeted passengers on the Serenity when it arrived in 2016. One of the guests admired her cloth kuspuku, a traditional Alaskan Native garment similar to a smock, and wanted to know if it was water resistant.

Not really, but that exchange inspired Bioff to create his own line of waterproof jackets styled like Kasspook. She now sells to tourists and locals alike at her own gift store, ‘Naatakugia’, her retail spot in her post office building. There, about 20 Alaska Native artists sell ivory carvings, beadwork or paintings on commission.

Cruise ship passengers typically spend about $100 a day in Nome, said city manager Glenn Steckman, according to the survey.

The expansion will allow guests of larger cruise ships to extend their stays to further experience the gnomes and tundra, see wild musk oxen and have a drink in the 123-year-old Trade Commission Saloon. He hopes so.

climate change making all this possible.

Founded after the discovery of gold in 1898, Nome has experienced six of the ten warmest winters on record this century alone. The Bering Strait route has become increasingly crowded since his 2009, rising from her 262 transits in the same year to 509 in 2022.

“We will be the first deep-draft Arctic port, but probably not the last,” Nome Mayor John Handeland said.

On average, Bering Sea ice reaches Nome in late November or December, about two to three weeks later than it did 50 years ago, according to Rick Toman, a climate expert at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It is said that there is

In 2019, the mushers of the Iditarod, who normally drive a team of dogs to Gnome’s Goal on the ice of the Bering Sea, were forced onto the beach because the sea was open. The ice season is only getting shorter, Thoman said.

The existing harbor causeway was completed in the mid-1980s. The expansion he will complete in three stages, effectively doubling its size. The first part of the project is funded by his $250 million in federal infrastructure funding, plus another $175 million from the Alaska legislature. Work on the site is scheduled to begin next year.

Currently, 3 ships can enter the port at a time. The expansion dock can accommodate 7-10 units.

Port Authority Commissioner Joy Baker said workers will dredge a new 40-foot (12.2-meter) deep basin to accommodate all U.S. warships except large cruise ships, cargo ships and aircraft carriers.

U.S. Congressman Dan Sullivan (Alaska Republican) said the expanded port would be central to America’s strategic infrastructure in the Arctic. The military is increasing resources in Alaska, stationing fighters at bases in Anchorage and Fairbanks, and establishing a new Army Airborne Division in Alaska. train soldiers for future cold climate conflicts It also has missile defense capabilities.

“Establishing a presence in the Arctic requires being able to have military assets and the infrastructure to support those assets,” Sullivan said.

The North Sea near Alaska is becoming more congested.US Coast Guard patrol board encountered seven Chinese and Russian naval ships Last year, it cooperated in exercises about 86 miles (138 km) north of Kiska Island in Alaska.

Coast Guard ships encountered Chinese ships 50 miles (80 km) off Alaska’s Aleutian Islands in 2021.

Last year NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg r warned that Russia and China have pledged to work together In the Arctic, a “deepening strategic partnership that challenges our values ​​and interests”.

Still, the prospect of Nome welcoming more tourists and boosting its military presence worries some residents. Austin Ahmask, from Inupiak, said the port’s original construction displaced areas traditionally used for subsistence hunting and fishing, making expansion useless.

“Nome Port is purely a development for the sake of development,” Ahmad said.

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