For Maersk, the trip the Northern Sea Route is a one-off trial for now. However, as climate change makes the Arctic route more accessible, there is growing interest that it could become a viable alternative to the Suez Canal, particularly from Russia. By Stine Jacobsen COPENHAGEN, Aug 24 (Reuters) – A Maersk vessel loaded with Russian fish and South Korean electronics will next week become the first container ship to navigate an Arctic sea route that Russia hopes will become a new shipping highway. The Arctic voyage by the 3,600 20-foot container capacity Venta Maersk is the latest step in the expansion of the so-called Northern Sea Route, which is becoming more accessible to ships as climate change reduces the amount of sea ice. The brand new Venta Maersk, one of the world’s largest ice-class (container) vessels, will also collect scientific data, said Maersk, underlining that the voyage is a one-off trial for now.
The decision by Maersk, the world’s biggest container shipping group, to test out the route is a positive sign for Russia, which hopes this could become a mini Suez Canal, cutting sea transport times from Asia to Europe
Russia is building new roads and a railway and overhauling its ports in an expansion of its freight capacity to prepare for a potential increase in shipping traffic along its Arctic coast. “This is a matter of national pride … if Russia wants to maintain strong, economic development, the Northern Sea Route is part of that,” Humpert said.
The Venta Maersk will be the first container ship to sail the route, but other types of vessels have already used it, including Maersk’s Chinese rival COSCO, according to the Arctic Institute. Russian natural gas producer Novatek delivered the first ever-liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargo to China via the Northern Sea Route in July. In January, China revealed ambitions to create a “Polar Silk Road” by developing shipping lanes opened up by global warming and encouraging enterprises to build infrastructure in the Arctic.