Chinese ship cuts through Artic for record round trip

Beijing, Oct 5 (IANS) Chinese ship “Yongsheng” completed a record-breaking 55-day round trip to Europe through the Arctic Ocean, an accomplishment that marks Beijing’s efforts to turn the region into a new trade route, the media reported Monday.

“Yongsheng” left the Chinese port of Dalian on July 8, reached the Swedish port of Varberg in mid-August and returned to Tianjin on October 4, covering more than 37,000 km of round trip in 55 days, EFE news reported.

In 2013, the merchant ship became the first from China to cross the Arctic and reach the Dutch city of Rotterdam, but this is the first time it has made a round trip.

“Yonsheng”, the 19,000-tonne vessel belonging to China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), is specially equipped to cross the Arctic waters, where icebergs and ice sheets pose a grave risk to conventional ships.

Due to climate change, the Arctic route, also known as the Northeast Passage, is increasingly navigable during the summer months, opening up more possibilities for countries with high maritime traffic such as China.

A journey along this route from China to Europe measures around 12,700 km, while the same trip using the more conventional route, through the Strait of Malacca between peninsular Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and the Suez Canal that connects Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea with the port of Suez on the Red Sea, measures 17,200 km.

The Northeast Passage can save ships time and fuel. However, difficulties posed by icebergs and ice sheets also have to be taken into account.

Experts believe global warming will soon open the Arctic route to navigation during summer without the need of Russian nuclear-powered icebreakers that have been paving the way for vessels in the Arctic channel.

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