It was a landmark moment for Russian shipping company, Sovcomflot, as for the first time ever, their specially built tanker, Christophe de Margerie, transported liquefied natural gas (LNG) across the Artic without any ice-breaking effort.
“There is an assumption that the ice is not going to thicken dramatically for the economic life of these vessels, which could be over 30 years,” Bill Spears from Sovcomflot told the BBC.
The cargo was carried by the vessel from Hammerfest in Norway to Boryeong in South Korea in 22 days, about 30% quicker than the conventional southern shipping route through the Suez Canal.
According to CNN, Ben Ayliffe, a campaigner for Greenpeace, said, “This is the paradox of climate change. The fossil fuels we’re burning are allowing access into areas that were previously protected by ice.”
The Arctic sea route recorded 19 full transits in 2016, each using an ice-breaker for a part of the travel.
Ships operating on the Arctic route require high insurance coverage and large fees, however, the savings on time of travel make it well worth it. There will be some fuel savings in transportation, but this will also make natural gas slightly cheaper and thus make burning it an incentive.
Environmentalists have been warning for years about rising global temperatures and the effects of the climate change, especially at the poles. While the present scenario will enable easier and swifter transport routes across the Arctic, it also creates the risk of oil spills in pristine environments and opens up fossil-fuel reserves that had remained out of reach previously, which will lead to more carbon emissions and in turn more thinning of ice.
In addition, it is imperative to point out that opening up the Arctic for oil and gas exploration and transportation may be a win for nations with control over the Arctic Circle, namely, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, and the US.
This is, however, not good news for the world.