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Maersk is launching the world’s first Arctic container ship along the Northern Sea Route, off Russia’s northern coast.

The route is being established as global warming melts ice in the region. Intended as a potential rival to the Suez Canal for trade between Asia and Europe, it could reduce journey times by up to two weeks.

However, vessels will have a smaller maximum size than at Suez and will still need to be accompanied by nuclear icebreakers, which means additional cost.

The trial run is being undertaken by the Venta Maersk, a 3,6000-container ship of a special new ice class. It will leave Vladivostok (on the far east side of Russia, near to Japan) within the next few days and is set to arrive St Petersburg (on the far west side, close to Finland) by the end of September.

“The trial passage will enable us to explore the operational feasibility of container shipping through the Northern Sea Route and to collect data,” said Maersk.

“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.”

(Source: Financial Times)

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