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Climate change opens up new era of commerce in Alaska

Fishing boats in the small boat harbor are surrounded by snowy peaks in Valdez, Alaska.

Looking to train for the job of the future? Get a box of those heat packs you stick in your boots and head north of the 60 degree parallel. You may prefer your Arctic pristine, but melting ice from climate change coupled with ships equipped with new ice-breaking technology could spark a new era of commerce in the far north.

But shipping in Arctic waters takes special skills. That’s why Scott Hamilton, department head for the Alaska Martime Training Center at Alaska's Institute of Technology, says it's time for more people to consider careers navigating the Arctic waters.

"If you look at where Alaska is situated, we are at the choke point -- tourism, fisheries, oil and gas. Right now in Alaska, fishing is a $2 billion a year industry, and the cruise ship in the Arctic has doubled from 2004 to 2007," Hamilton says. "I refer to it as the manifest destiny of the opening of the Arctic."

Up until recently, the waters in the region were too frozen for this type of commerce. But ice breaking due to climate change, combined with new ice breaking technology are making new industries possible.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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