An icebreaker has become the first Chinese ship to cross the Arctic Ocean during a record ice thaw. This climate change is believed to be able to open new trade routes.
China is exemplifying its expansion into the Arctic – an oil and gas rich area – which can also be utilized as a commercial shipping lane between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, arrived in Iceland this week after sailing the Northern Route along the coast of Russia, reports Reuters India. A representative from the Polar Research Institute of China team stated that a lot more ice along the route at this time of year was expected, rather than what the vessel came across. The icebreaker will return to China by a route closer to the North Pole.
Sea ice floating on the Arctic is on track to beat a record low set in 2007, making the region more accessible, but exhibiting the effect of global warming on the environment. However, the melt is gradually opening up the Arctic as a short-cut route. For example, the German-based Beluga Group sent a cargo ship north from Korea to Rotterdam in 2009.
This week, Arctic sea ice level fell to 1.97 million square miles - an area smaller than Brazil. Sea ice reaches its lowest in September before increasing again as winter approaches. For many countries outside the region, there is peaking focus on opportunities to supply equipment to aid in drilling.
Photo (thumb): Drift ice camp in the middle of the Arctic Ocean as seen from the deck of icebreaker Xue Long.