Further signs of just how much the Arctic Ocean is thawing came yesterday via Russian state television where the country’s deputy prime minister, Yuri Trutnev, said that year-round shipping via the Northern Sea Route (NSR) ought to be possible next year or by 2023 at the latest.
“We are planning to start the transition to year-round navigation in 2022-2023,” Trutnev told the Rossiya 24 television channel.
The shipping season has extended to around nine months over the past decade as the seas in the far north have warmed at a faster rate than the rest of the world.
The Vladimir Putin-led administration has invested vast sums in recent years to develop ports, bunkering facilities and ice breakers in a bid to grow traffic along the northern maritime rim of the planet, keen to take business away from the Suez Canal on the busy Asia – Europe tradelanes.
Officials want to increase cargo volumes shipped through the route to 80m tonnes per year by 2024. Last year, 33m tonnes of cargo were shipped via the NSR.
Arctic ice levels have hit historic lows and are expected to be a source of division at the international climate summit, COP 26, due to be held in Glasgow next month.
Between 1979 and 2020, the average amount of sea ice extent in the Arctic, defined as the region of ocean with at least some ice, dropped by a surface area nearly equivalent to Greenland, according to recent findings published in the Journal of Operational Oceanography in the fifth annual edition of the Copernicus Ocean State Report. The Arctic Ocean’s warming is believed to be responsible for approximately 4% of global ocean warming, researchers to the new report stated.