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With its progress across Russia’s frigid arctic coast, the vessel also carried the promise of a new route across the globe that would shave time off major trade trips and cut the shipping industry’s rapidly rising fuel bills.
The reality for vessel operators is more complicated, however, and the economic and operating barriers to predictable, scheduled services may be more difficult to break through than the fast-melting ice along the Arctic Circle.
Arctic routes are drawing greater attention as the global climate warms up and polar ice recedes, potentially opening new paths between Asia, Europe and North America. The Northern Sea Route, a mostly frozen seaway, is considered a likely lane because it already is used in warmer seasons to move part of Russia’s massive energy exports.
The NSR runs from Alaska to the Baltic Sea and is open from July to November.
Moscow now is promoting the lane as the shortest distance to ship containers from Asia to Europe, and a possible rival for routes that now take ships through the Suez Canal.
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