© Khunaspix Dreamstime.

The north-eastern sea passage from Asia to Europe – or vice versa – along Russia’s northern Arctic coast is gradually opening up to commercial shipping as the Arctic ice-floe melts. As it does shipping times between Asia and Europe could shorten considerably, although at the moment cargo ships, such as the one in this story which has just set sail from Dalian, need to be accompanied by a nuclear-powered ice-breaker – which hardly sounds the most cost-efficient alternative.