The impact of global warming and the continuous retreat of Arctic Sea ice has opened up a potential new box shipping route between Asia and Europe that could chop at least one-third off of transit times for time-sensitive goods.

With Chinese state-owned carrier Cosco known to be eyeing a new container service after successfully using the Northern Sea Route (NSR) for heavylift cargo in the past few years, Maersk has jumped ahead of the pack to become the first to use the NSR for a container shipment.

The ice-strengthened 3,600 teu Venta Maersk will sail from Vladivostok in eastern Russia this week with a cargo of frozen fish, en route for St Petersburg, accompanied by a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker.

Maersk says it has “no plans” to run liner services on the route, which is currently only navigable two to three months a year, but with experts predicating that the polar region will see a further thinning of the ice cap, the Danish company has decided to put the first containerised toe into the cold water.

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