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With global warming thawing sea ice, the route, which runs along Russia's northern coast and links Europe with ports in East Asia, is opening for longer and longer each year.
Russia is also easing regulations to accommodate more vessels aiming to spur use of the still fledgling route which can cut travel time between Europe and Asia by up to 40 percent.
"Russia clearly sees the opportunity and is trying to take advantage of it," said Mikhail Belkin, an adviser at Atomflot, the operator of Russia's nuclear icebreaker fleet.
Around 1.25 million tonnes of cargo traversed the route last year, a tiny figure compared to the Suez Canal's 740 million tonnes. But Belkin predicted a rise to 1.5 million tonnes this year and 40 million tonnes by 2021.
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