A Maersk container ship is seen to the departure of the Chesapeake Bay.
The world’s largest container line is about to go on a journey through the cold at the north Pole for the testing of a faster shipping method that could become viable when it is warmer to melt open the Northern Sea Route.
Around Sept. 1, Denmark-based Maersk will have a new container ship with a reinforced hull and a capacity of 3,600 containers—in the polar sea, reports NPR.
Industry watchers see the trip as a potential turning point for the shipping industry and the north Pole.
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The Earth has warmed, shipping companies have looked to the north Pole as a way to cut down traveling time and save money.
Malte Humpert, founder and senior fellow of the Arctic Institute, Washington, D. C. based think tank, said the Maersk decision marks the next step in the Arctic shipping development.
“It’s not a huge, dramatic shift, it is just a kind of sequential development,” Humpert told NPR. “The ice is melting and more things are becoming possible in the Arctic, and that is of course … comes enhanced risk for the environment.”
In a statement to NPR, Maersk says it does “not see the Northern Sea Route as an alternative to the usual routes. We are planning new services depending on the customer demand, patterns of trade and population centers.”
The company says it is the uk Venta Maersk in the Arctic “is a trial to explore an unknown route for the container trade and for the collection of scientific data.”
Humpert said Maersk wants to gain experience in the Arctic, which will likely lead to more opportunities in the future, adding that the Northern Sea Route could slice about two weeks off the journey from Asia to Europe.
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However, cutting the travel time does not guarantee cost savings.
Humpert says that there is no infrastructure in the Arctic, and in contrast to the traditional Vladivostok to St. Petersburg route via the Suez Canal, there are no transfer options along the way.
Paul Bingham, transportation and international trade economist with the Economic Development Research group, says Venta Maersk is a “ice-class ship,” able to go through about 3 metres of the non-consolidated ice.
He says that makes the ship strong enough to withstand the rigors of the route, but only for about three months of the year.
Christopher Carbone is a reporter and news editor covering science and technology for FoxNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @christocarbone.