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Shipping firm AP Moller-Maersk to trial new route through the Arctic

7:34 pm, 23rd August 2018

AP Moeller-Maersk will launch the trial next month through the Northern Sea Route, which could be a shorter route for journeys from Europe to East Asia than the Northwest Passage over Canada.

This is because it is likely to be free of ice sooner due to climate change.

Experts say it could be 8,200km (5,000 miles) shorter than the current shortest route from East Asia to Europe through the Suez Canal, which is currently 21,000km (13,000 miles).

A shortcut through the Russian Arctic could bring the distance down to 12,800km (8,000 miles) and cut as many as 15 days off the usual transit time.

:: The Arctic’s oldest, thickest sea ice is ‘breaking up’ for first time in recorded history

Venta Maersk will leave Russia’s pacific port of Vladivostok around 1 September and sail to St Petersburg, arriving at the end of the month with its cargo of frozen fish.

Maersk spokeswoman Janina von Spalding said: “I think it is important to underline that this is a one-off trial designed to explore an unknown route for container shipping and to collect scientific data – and not the launch of a new product.”

She said the trial would offer the firm a “unique opportunity to gain operational experience in a new area and to test vessel systems, crew capabilities and the functionality of the shore-based support setup”.

The route has been co-ordinated in conjunction with Russian authorities after a careful evaluation of ice conditions.

Ice breaker assistance will be on hand throughout the journey, Maersk said.

“Currently, we do not see the Northern Sea Route as a commercial alternative to our existing network, which is defined by our customers’ demand, trading patterns and population centres,” she added.