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Northern Sea Route Opens Up to Non-Russian Vessel, Makes Maritime History

Northern Sea Route

The Northern Sea Route is rarely open due to large amounts of ice present most of the year, but that is changing with global warming and a Nordic ship is set to deliver its metals to Asia via the route for the first time in recent history, taking advantage of the longer period in which the route is open. The opening of the route will have vast implications for the shipping industry, a trade that was previously dependent on routes through the Suez Canal. In fact, fuel savings are expected to reach $180,000, carbon emissions are expected to reduce drastically, and the voyage time is cut back by one third, from 60-65 days to 19-20 days.

Northern Sea Route

The MV Nordic Barents will journey from Norway to China to deliver iron ore. The opening up of the route has been a long time coming, but the relevant parties took their time to come to an agreement on usage conditions. MarineLog reports that the route is now expected to be open for two-four months out of the year.

The complicated component of the news is the fact that the very thing that has made such voyages now possible is global warming itself, while users of the route claim their environmental impact will be drastically less, because of shorter travel distance required, when compared to travel through the Suez Canal. So is the development really something to celebrate or is it in fact something Greenpeace may plan huge protests around? We’ll have to see. Either way, history is being made this month, for better or worse.

[Middle image via Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal]

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