Arctic Shipping On the Rise

Image courtesy of the University of Washington.
Image courtesy of the University of Washington.

It’s shaping up to be a busy year for Arctic shipping. The Russian government has already granted 218 vessels permission to transit the Northern Sea Route this summer — four times as many as made the trip last year.

While some of the vessels are resupplying the Russian far north, others are doing the full passage from Europe to Asia, or vice versa. None of them is expected to stop in the Aleutians, but the potential for ships to do so in the future is on people’s mind.

In a speech about the Arctic last week, Senator Lisa Murkowski singled out Unalaska and Adak as potential transshipment points, saying, “Ice-strengthened ships could be used entirely within the Arctic rather than traveling all the way to Singapore or Hong Kong, saving time, money, and allowing for an increased number of transits.”

While interest appears to be increasing in the Northern Sea Route, it’s still a long way from competing with the traditional passage, via the Suez Canal. That route sees more than 30,000 ships a year.

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