Portman Venta Maersk is about to become the first high-capacity freight vessel crossing the Arctic Ocean on the North Sea route, passing through Russia’s territorial waters, a route that would shorten by two weeks the time required for a similar classical trip which involves the passage of the Suez Canal.
And this is possible in the context of high summer temperatures and melting ice in Arctic Arc polar regions, writes The Washington Post. Venta Maersk, owned by Danish shipping giant Maersk, left August 23 from Vladivostok to Busan, South Korea, from where he again raised the anchor to reach the North Sea route in Bremerhaven, Germany. Portcontainer, now loaded with South Korean electronic products and frozen fish from Vladivostok, would arrive in Germany on September 22, and from there he will leave for St. Petersburg, Russia. Economic advantages The voyage of the Venta, which has the capacity to carry 3,600 containers, makes it clear that this route is becoming more accessible to ships, especially during July-October, as a result of global warming.
At the same time, it gives hope to Russia that it could have its own Suez Canal, which would reduce the duration of shipping between Asia and Europe. And not only Russia is interested in making this route a seasonal alternative to shipping via the Suez Canal in Egypt. China also hopes that this Arctic Ocean route will also be able to be used by high-capacity vessels, as navigation time would fall considerably. The same is the fuel consumption, therefore, implicitly the transport costs. For example, according to searoutes.com, a ship departing from South Korea to Germany via Cape of Good Hope in South Africa needs an average of 46 days to reach its destination, while a similar trip via the Suez Canal would take 34 days. The North Sea Route involves only 23 days.
In addition, Russian company Rosatom, which has the world’s largest fleet of nuclear ice breakers, says the Arctic Ocean route is not crowded and there are no pirates in the area. But that does not mean there is no danger. “If you do it hard, you are very far from civilization,” said Mika Hovilainen, project manager at Aker Arctic Technology. According to him, in the Arctic are “extreme conditions” even in the summer. Another disadvantage would be the bad impact on the environment, warns scientists who fear oil leakage or dangerous substances may occur in the area, given that global climate conditions are, however, difficult. A potential new conflict Last but not least, Russia and its competitors may end up in a conflict over who controls in the area. “The Arctic region has transformed a number of states into a subject of territorial, military-strategic and resource-related interest,” Defense Minister Serghei Soigu warned last month. “This could increase the potential for a conflict in this region,” he added. If decades ago, the area was a Cold War chessboard for ships and submarines, the next battle would be more of a commercial nature, comments The Washington Post. An exploration trip Meanwhile, the Venta has another mission – to gather scientific data, as Maersk spokeswoman Janina von Spalding said. At the same time, there are Russian ship pilots on board to help staff on board to cope with the dangers of the ice in the region. And for everything to go as far as possible, four Russian nuclear ice breakers are ready to assist the Venta if necessary.