Fresh foray into new Arctic passage to China: ship owner

3rd September 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Hong Kong-flagged ship will sail Saturday from Norway for China, the first non-Russian vessel to conduct an international voyage through the famed Northeast passage, the ship's Danish owner, Nordic Bulk Carriers, said Friday.

The voyage by the Nordic Barents is yet an indication of growing interest in the passage, which due to receding ice appears to be materialising into the elusive trade route from the West to Asia sought for centuries by explorers.

The Northern sea route is thousands of kilometres shorter than existing routes, and thus promises to dramatically shorten travel time, cut fuel needs and carbon dioxide emissions.

After having loaded 41,000 tonnes of iron ore in Kirkenes, at Norway's northernmost tip, the Nordic Barents will sail to the Chinese port of Qingdao with the help of two Russian icebreaker vessels.

Nordic Bulk Carriers said the ship on its upcoming voyage would cover only about half the distance of its traditional route through the Suez canal.

It said it would spend eight fewer days at sea and would save 180,000 dollars in fuel costs.

"It can be very interesting for producers of minerals in Norway, in Sweden or in Finland who want to export their goods to the Asian markets," company's managing director Christian Bonfils told AFP.

Opting for the Northeast passage route will also allow ships to avoid the danger of pirates and terror attacks that have recently plagued the Indian Ocean.

Last month, Russia, which for decades has used the passage for domestic connections, announced a trailblazing voyage by sending a gas tanker from the northwestern port at Murmansk to China.

"What's new with the Nordic Barents is that she is the first ship with a foreign (non-Russian) flag which is allowed to sail off Northern Russia without delivering any cargo to Russia," Bonfils explained.

The voyage from Kirkenes to Qingdao is scheduled to take 26 days.

© 2010 AFP

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