Two years ago. Supply Chain Matters called reader attention to an important milestone in Asia and North Atlantic Ocean transit. At the time, a Chinese icebreaker was successful in completing the first ship voyage that utilized an Arctic Ocean and polar icecap route to travel from China to an Icelandic port.
Last year, we highlighted reports that a Chinese cargo ship successfully made the first ever commercial transit of the Northwest Passage. The Yong Sheng, a cargo vessel operated by state-owned Cosco Group set sail from the port of Dalian for Rotterdam.
This week, the Wall Street Journal reported (paid subscription) further volume increases for this northern shipping route. The article cites data from the Artic Institute in Washington DC indicating that 71 ships carried 1.3 million tons of cargo via the Artic route in 2013. That was up from 46 vessels in 2012.
The Institute indicates that most of the volume was either one-way shipments of fossil fuels from Northern Europe to Asia, or inter-port voyages among Russian ports. Only 30 vessels carried cargo for the full length of the Arctic shipping lane. One other interesting aspect was that more goods were shipped from Europe to Asia than the other way around, which was the initial promise for the Northern Passage route.
The WSJ report indicates that rather than the promise of a new seaway from Asia to Europe, the current effort is more about developing Arctic sea ports which has become an important objective of the Russian government.