Arctic Shipping Expected to Double in 2011

The Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route in comparison to 
traditional shipping routes through the Panama and Suez canals
by Malte Humpert Arctic shipping along the Northern Sea Route (NSR) commenced about 10 days for the season and is expected to continue until the end of October. Arctic sea ice extent declined at a rapid pace through the first half of July, and is now tracking below the year 2007, which saw the record minimum September extent. Hence, the use of Arctic shipping routes is expected to double this year.

The first ship to pass through the NSR was a Singaporean tanker en route to China's eastern seaboard to deliver gas condensate. The journey will take 22 days, about half the normal voyage time via the Suez Canal. Tschudi Arctic, a Hong Kong registered cargo shipping company, is planning to make extensive use of the route this year.

The trajectories of all cargo ships bigger than 10,000 GT
Oil and gas developments in northern Russia have resulted in a higher demand for shipping to and from that area. Russia's Rosatomflot, the operator of a fleet of ice-breakers, is slated to profit from increase traffic in the Arctic. The usage of ice-breakers as an escort remains mandatory and chargeable, but still offer a cost-effective alternative than the Suez option.

Sovcomflot, another Russian shipping company, is in the process of raising money via an IPO to expand its Arctic shipping fleet and provide capacity for the growing gas deliveries between Russia and China. Two german merchant ships, the MV Beluga Fraternity and MV Beluga Foresight, were one of the first non-Russian vessels to traverse the NSR in 2009.