A fully-loaded container ship is currently traveling from China to Amsterdam via the Northeast Passage, a route that would be impossibly dangerous were it not for the gentle guiding hand of climate change, melting all of that treacherous arctic ice.
Many icebreaking ships have made the passage before, but the 19,000-ton Yong Sheng is the first container vessel to do so, as Vice reports:
For a few years now the Northern Sea Route has become passable in summer, at least by vessels designed for icy Arctic waters. Last summer an icebreaker became the first Chinese vessel to make the passage. In 2010, a Norwegian vessel carrying iron ore to China became the first non-Russian vessel to complete the journey. […]
The Northern Sea Route, also known as the Northeast Passage, runs along the entire northern coast of Russia, across Siberia, before emptying into the Bering Strait and Pacific Ocean. Historically it has been ice free in parts for about two months of the year, but in recent years it has become passable because of climate change on Arctic ice melt.
In terms of energy use and finance, utilizing the Northern Sea Route cuts the number of days it takes to ship goods from East Asia to Northern Europe, as well as the amount of fuel consumed in doing so—the Norwegian journey in 2010 saved $180,000 on fuel, as the distance traveled across the top of the world is one-third shorter than it would be otherwise.
The ship is scheduled to arrive in Amsterdam on September 11th, and will likely be far from the last Chinese ship to make the trip.
[Image via Danramarch]