Hyundai may be sending ships north soon.
Hyundai may be sending ships north soon.

Hyundai Merchant Marine, South Korea’s biggest container carrier, is seriously considering using Russia’s Arctic Sea Route to ship cargo between Asia and Europe, according to a report in the Korea Times.

The Seoul-based newspaper cites shipping industry sources as saying Hyundai is mulling trail runs as early as 2020. If the company follows through, it will be the first regular use of the Arctic shipping route by a Korean player.

The move comes as Arctic ice reaches historical lows this year from Global Warming and increasing numbers of Asian shipping firms eye the shorter route to reach Europe.

The Korea Times says South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed intensifying such bilateral Arctic cooperation on the sidelines of the recent G20 summit in Germany. Korean use of the Northern Sea Route is expected to be brought up again by the two leaders at the upcoming Eastern European Economic Forum in Vladivostok.

South Korean ships that currently use the established shipping route through the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal to reach Europe take about 40 days from the port of Busan to reach Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The new route opened by the melting ice in Russia’s Arctic is expected to cut the travel time to 30 days — substantially reducing shipping costs.

The Norway-based Independent Barents Observer says Korean-made industrial components were shipped via the Northern route in July 2016 to the Russian Arctic port of Sabetta. The cargo then travelled to the South Ural city of Tobolsk via the rivers Ob and Irtysh.

China’s Cosco Group container ship Yong Sheng reportedly made the first successful container shipment along the Northern Sea Route in 2013 in a voyage that began in a Chinese port  and ended in Amsterdam.