On Thursday 8th August, a 19,000 cargo vessel belonging to Cosco Shipping set sail on its maiden voyage from the north-eastern Chinese port of Dalian in Liaoning province. Rather than taking the usual route via the Suez Canal, the ship will sail via the Northeast Passage of The Arctic. According to China Daily this is the first time a Chinese merchant ship has travelled to Europe via this route, which passes through the Bering Strait and along Russia’s northern coastline.
The new route is expected to cut approximately 7,000km and 12 to 15 days off the usual shipping routes between China and Europe, greatly reducing fuel and operating costs. Cosco anticipates that the journey to Rotterdam will take 33 days, which means the ship should arrive on 11th September. The Northeast Passage has become navigable in recent times due to melting polar caps, but ships will still only be able to transit for about four months of the year in the Arctic summer.
Around 90 per cent of China’s foreign trade is carried by sea, and it is hoped that the new shipping route will help develop the northeast of the country. China Daily quotes industry experts as saying the Arctic route will change China’s industrial layout in its coastal provinces and reshape the prospects for the global shipping sector. Han Yichao, an industrial analyst with Changjiang Securities Co told China Daily that if 10 per cent of China’s trade was shipped through the Arctic routes by 2020, it could be worth $683 billion.
(Image courtesy of the Daily Mail)