Thinning Arctic ice has made it possible for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker travelling from South Korea to northern Russia to become the first ship ever to cross the region in winter without an assist from an icebreaker.
The Eduard Toll, owned by the Teekay shipping group, made the transit to Russia’s Sabetta terminal in December before continuing on to Montoir, France to drop off its cargo.
“The Arctic has already exceeded the Paris agreement’s aspiration of limiting warming to 1.5°C, and the agreed target of 2.0°. In some areas it has warmed by 4.0°,” said Greenpeace International Senior Oil Strategist Sarah North. “And so now, ironically, we can deliver fossil fuels more quickly. It’s like a heavy smoker using his tracheotomy to smoke two cigarettes at once.”
“The voyage is a significant moment in the story of climate change in the Arctic and will be seized on by those with concerns about thinning polar ice and its implications for the environment,” The Independent reports. “A similar vessel made the same crossing in August last year, but this is the first time it has been completed when the temperatures are at their coldest.”
“The people and passion one needs for an ice passage like this cannot be underestimated,” said Teekay President and CEO Mark Kremin. The Independent said Teekay is investing in six ships to serve its LNG operations at Yamal, in northern Russia.
The paper cites a recent study that envisions Arctic routes shaving 10 days off shipments from Europe to Asia by 2050, 13 days by 2100.
“The reduction in summer sea ice, perhaps the most striking sign of climate change, may also provide economic opportunities,” said study co-author Dr. Nathanael Melia. “There is renewed interest in trans-Arctic shipping because of potentially reduced costs and journey times between Asia and the Atlantic.”