S. Korea, Norway to bolster cooperation in ships, Arcti…

President Park Geun-hye and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg agreed on Friday to strengthen cooperation in building eco-friendly ships and offshore plants, Cheong Wa Dae said Friday.

The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding in 2012 that calls for, among other things, cooperation in building eco-friendly ships, the presidential office said.

Ships account for more than 90 percent of South Korea’s exports to Norway.

Bilateral trade between the two reached a record high of $7.4 billion last year, compared with $1.7 billion in 2006.

Two-way trade has been on the rise since 2006 when a free trade deal between South Korea and the European Free Trade Association — composed of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein — went into effect.

Solberg plans to visit Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., the world’s largest shipyard, in the southeastern industrial city of Ulsan.

Park and Solberg also agreed to strengthen cooperation on the Arctic region, a move that could help explore the northern polar route that holds huge potential for cutting costs and saving time for shipping companies.

South Korea and Norway have launched a joint research project on Arctic routes since 2014.

Norway is a member of the Arctic Council, which sets the rules for the development of the polar region believed to have large untapped reserves of oil and gas.

In 2013, South Korea gained permanent observer status on the council, a move that allows Seoul to secure a bigger say in the intergovernmental gathering.

Currently, South Korean ships use the conventional shipping route through the Indian Ocean and Suez Canal to reach Europe, a journey that takes about 30 days.

In comparison, Arctic routes can cut the travel time by about half, which reduces shipping costs.

Maritime experts have said that it may take time before any commercial sailing is conducted as the routes can only be used between July and October and vessels require help from icebreakers. (Yonhap)

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