AN unnamed 19,461-ton Cosco freighter bound for Rotterdam has departed from Dalian on what is expected to be 33-day voyage via the Bering Strait over the top of Russia, China Daily reports.
The new Arctic route, navigable for about four months a year from the end of July, avoids the strife-torn Egypt's Suez Canal, and trims 7,000 kilometres off the voyage.
In 2012, 46 ships used the Northeast Passage, compared with four in 2010, according to Rosatomflot, a Russian operator of icebreakers compared to the 19,000 ships that use Suez.
Previous estimates have suggested up to 15 per cent of Chinese foreign trade could use the Arctic route by 2020.
While climate change experts predicted in 2007 there would be no sea ice by the Arctic summer of 2013, this year the Arctic is said to have had its shortest summer in 10 years and sea ice has recovered, though it is thinner new ice rather than thicker old ice.
Nonetheless, access to Arctic seas has increased in recent years because of advances in ice-strengthened hulls.
Asian Shipper News