A Danish ship sailing from Vladivostok, Russia is set to become the first container ship to tackle the Arctic sea route north of Russia.
The Venta Maersk, owned by the Danish Maersk Line which will be carrying 3,600 containers transporting frozen fish and other refrigerated and general cargo, hopes to reach St Petersburg by late September. The journey, which is expected to be fourteen days shorter than the conventional route via the Suez Canal is a trial passage and data will be collected to see if the Northern Sea Route is economically viable.
Until now the route has required an escort of nuclear icebreakers to accompany any vessel, making the route prohibitively expensive. However, the melting of Arctic ice prompted by global warming is opening up the route so that last year a purpose-built Russian liquid gas tanker became the first tanker to sail the route unaided. Moreover, a report from the Copenhagen Business School in 2016 found that shipping through the Northern Sea Route could become economically viable by 2040.
Will shipping through the Arctic Circle become commonplace? If so, what implications will this have for global trade? Is this an early example of how global warming could benefit regions and countries where cold temperatures impede economic opportunities?
If so, what will the cost be for the region's fragile ecosystems? Could such routes accelerate the cycle of melting and warming?