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Chinese Ship Navigates Arctic Trading Route

by Mary Swire, Tax-News.com, Hong Kong

22 August 2012


The MV Xue Long, a Chinese research ice-breaker vessel, successfully undertook a first voyage to explore the possibility of a new trade route that would slash shipping times between China and Europe by transiting through the Arctic Ocean.

The Xue Long became the first Chinese vessel to travel along the Northern Sea Route between the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic along the Russian coast, reportedly slashing 40% of its journey time against the use of conventional routes.

The voyage was achievable due to an unprecedented thaw in arctic ice. According to the United States National Ice and Snow Data Center: "Arctic Sea ice extent during the first two weeks of August continued to track below 2007 record low daily ice extents. As of August 13, ice extent was already among the four lowest summer minimum extents in the satellite record [which dates back to 1979], with about five weeks still remaining in the melt season."

The US Data Center reported that arctic sea ice extent on August 13 was 5.09 million square kilometers. This is 2.69 million square kilometers below the 1979 to 2000 average extent for the date, and is 483,000 square kilometers below the previous record low for the date, which occurred in 2007.

While the development means that arctic waters may be more accessible going forward, environmental organizations have voiced concerns that larger areas of 'dark ocean', which absorb more heat, may speed the impact of global warming on sea levels. The average pace of ice loss since late June has been rapid at just over 100,000 square kilometers per day.

The MV Xue Long, built originally as a cargo ship for use in the polar region by Ukraine's Kherson Shipyard in March 1993, became the only research ice-breaker in China after thoroughgoing modification in 1994, for the Arctic and Antarctic regions. It is the re-supply vessel and the scientific research platform for Chinese Arctic and Antarctic research expeditions. The vessel is 167 meters long with a fully-loaded displacement of 21,250 tons, and has a cruising radius of 12,000 nautical miles. It is an A2-class ice-breaker and is capable of breaking ice 1.2 meters thick (or 0.2m of thick snow) at a sailing speed of two knots, and has a maximum speed of 17.9 knots.

TAGS: marine

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