Has Climate Change Opened The Northern Sea Route Year Round?

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Our AIS data tracked the Chris. De Margerie as it traveled the northern route this winter. Do the fuel savings on this route outweigh the harmful impact it could have on the environment? Get the data.

The Northern Sea Route appears to be open year round due to climate change melting the sea ice and making it passable to large ships without ice breaker support. The Arctic region is warming at more than twice the rate of the rest of the world and these rising temperatures have melted the arctic sea ice, allowing three LNG carriers to pass safely through the region without an icebreaker escort. This marks the first time in nearly 100 years that the shipping lane is accessible in the middle of winter.

Will year round shipping along the Northern Sea Route become commonplace due to climate change? And, more to the point, should we be concerned about this? Our AIS data tracked the Chris. De Margerie as it traveled the northern route this winter.

Known for challenging conditions

The icy waterway is known for its treacherous passage, often experiencing 24 hours of darkness and volatile arctic weather conditions. Travelling the Northern Sea Route takes immense planning and skill as there are many risks along the route to the safety of crew and cargo. Combine that with the fact that ice is constantly evolving and has to be navigated and predicted in real-time, it makes setting a course for a voyage complicated.

More choices for shippers

Opening the waterway however, represents a boon for the shipping industry and could mean less fuel consumption, lower operating costs, and shorter voyage time for cargo shippers running routes from the Far East and Europe. However, it is not fully known yet if the advantages of lower carbon emissions outweigh the harmful impact this route could have on the environment.

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