Lingering Ice Delays Opening of Northern Sea Route

Bloomberg
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September 9, 2014

By Chou Hui Hong

Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) — Shipping activity in the Northern Sea Route, an Arctic passage that can cut transit times by half for vessels traveling between north Europe and Asia, will open late this year, according to the NSR Information Office.

“Due to ice conditions, active transit navigation on NSR starts later this season,” Sergey Balmsov, the head of the NSR Information Office in Murmansk, Russia, said in an e-mail. “We will see more vessels in September and October.”

The Northern Sea Route is traditionally open from July through November, and some 71 ships made the voyage last year, data from South Korea’s Yongsan University showed. No ships have completed their transit voyages through the NSR as of yesterday, according to the Norway-based NSR Information Office.

A journey from Murmansk in northwest Russia to Japan through the Arctic is 6,010 miles and requires about 18 sailing days, compared with a distance of 12,291 miles and 37 days through the Suez Canal in the Middle East, the NSR Information Office said on its website.

“The guys most likely to use it would be people shipping LNG cargoes from Snohvit in Norway or possibly reloads from Zeebrugge, Belgium,” Tony Regan, an energy consultant at Tri- Zen International Inc. in Singapore, said by e-mail. Using the Northern Sea Route requires chartering an ice-breaker vessel, which increases the shipping costs, Regan said.

The daily average Arctic sea-ice thickness has been greater from June this year compared with the two previous years, according to data from the University of Washington’s Polar Science Centre.

Copyright 2014 Bloomberg.

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