For the past few years, the Arctic has been sufficiently ice-free in the summertime that some ships have been able to take the short-cut routes across the North Sea Route and the Northwest Passage. Last year, among others, a small sailboat with a crew of 3 made the Northwest Passage. This year, a 19,000 ton Chinese cargo container carrier is traveling to Amsterdam via the Arctic, going north and traveling along the northern coast of Russia, rather than down through the Indian Ocean and through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean. This marks the first time that a container ship is traveling through the Arctic.
The shorter trip will mean lower fuel costs (and, ironically, fewer greenhouse gas emissions) for the freighter. Taking this route is expected to save 12 to 15 days of travel and shortens the trip by roughly 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles).
While this is news now, it is all too likely that this will go from a unique occurrence to an ordinary annual event within a few years.