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Record number of applications to sail Northern Sea Route

This summer saw a record number of applications for permission to sail the Northern Sea Route, Wathernews’s Global Ice Center (GIC) said in a report for 2014. Russia’s Northern Sea Route
Administration (NSRA) received over six-hundred applications for permission to transit the Northeastern passage this year, the most they have ever seen until now, the report shows. This indicates the global shipping industry’s expectations for higher profit margins by exploiting the fuel and charter cost savings on shorter NSR voyages.

 GIC said that ice in the Northeastern passage began to melt from late May, opening fully from August 21st to October 1st. Russia’s Northeastern passage fully opened from late August, staying open for six-weeks. Meanwhile, according to the report, ice remaining in the Canadian archipelago prevented the Northwestern passage from becoming transitable for the first time in five years.

 “The Northwestern passage was partially blocked by ice, thus preventing use by commercial vessels. This is the first time in five years that the Northwestern passage did not fully open,” the report reads. According to Dr. Genki Sagawa of the Global Ice Center, a specialist in polar science, lower temperatures and few low-pressure systems that help ice to break up are the causes for limited melting this year.

The lowest area of ice observed by GIC this summer was 4.8 million km2, which is the sixth smallest area in recorded history. Dr. Sagawa also explained that, “Even after the opening closes, it has still been possible in recent years to transit the route with ice-breaker escorts until about November. Since a lot of ice starts to appear along the route about this time, finely detailed information concerning sea ice and weather conditions become critical in order to safely sail the NSR.”

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