The World’s Biggest Shipping Company Is Testing a New Arctic Route That’s Made Possible By Global Warming

August 21, 2018, 10:36 AM UTC

Rising temperatures from global warming have made a northern commercial shipping route possible, and Maersk is setting sail with the first container ship to take the Northern Sea Route.

The Danish shipping goliath will launch the Venta Maersk this week, which will sail from Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan up and around the Arctic Circle, skirting Scandinavia and stopping in Bremerhaven, Germany, to arrive in St. Petersburg by the end of September.

This Northern Sea Route could become a competitor for the Suez Canal in Asian-European trade. The icy route could shave one or two weeks off the transportation time, though the ships will have to be accompanied by nuclear-powered icebreakers, the Financial Times reports.

Rising temperatures are melting polar ice at record rates, increasing the number of days in a year the Arctic route is passable.

The Venta Maersk is a brand-new ice-class container ship made by Odense Maritime Technology, capable of carrying 3,600 units, but the maiden voyage will carry just a load of frozen fish and some refrigerated produce.

“It is important to underline that this is a trial designed to explore an unknown route for container shipping and to collect scientific data,” a spokesperson for Maersk told Splash. “Currently, we do not see the Northern Sea Route as an alternative to our usual routes….Today, the passage is only feasible for around three months a year which may change with time. Furthermore, we also must consider that ice-classed vessels are required to make the passage, which means an additional investment.”

Russian sent its first shipment of liquid natural gas via the Northern Sea Route last month, and China’s Cosco has used the route to transport heavy components in recent years, piquing interest from competitors.