DATE: August 24, 2017
SNIP: A commercial LNG tanker has sailed across the colder, northern route from Europe to Asia without the protection of an ice-breaker for the first time.
The specially-built ship completed the crossing in just six-and-a-half days setting a new record, according to the tanker’s Russian owners.
The 300-metre-long Sovcomflot ship, the Christophe de Margerie, was carrying gas from Norway to South Korea.
Rising Arctic temperatures are boosting commercial shipping across this route.
The Christophe de Margerie is the world’s first and, at present, only ice-breaking LNG carrier.
There has been an overall decline in Arctic sea ice over the past 30 years, linked by scientists to rising global temperatures. This year, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC), the annual maximum extent of Arctic sea ice hit a record low for the third year in a row.
This diminution of northern ice is something that the Russian ship owners believe will continue well into the future.
Environmental campaigners, though, are worried that increased traffic in this inhospitable region could have potentially significant effects.
“We’re concerned that this is a commercial opportunity that has only opened up because of global warming, and we’re especially concerned that having taken advantage of the thinning of the ice, shipping operations are now expanding in that part of the world,” said John Maggs from Seas at Risk.