Photo: Sovcomflot

Data from Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute shows that the country’s entire Northern Sea Route now is ice-free, according to a report in the Independent Barents Observer.

The Norway-based publication says shipping has been smooth and easy this summer even in the usually ice-covered waters between the Kara Sea and the Bering Strait. Russia’s Northern Sea Route Administration says there were a total of 94 ships operating along the route on September 4. The tally does not include military vessels.

Most of the ships are concentrated around the Yamal Peninsula where Russia’s Novatek and Gazprom Neft have their huge Yamal LNG and Novy Port projects. South Korean and Chinese ships are reportedly eyeing use of what may become a major global trade route that bypasses the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal.

Ice floes along Russia’s Northern Sea Route and Canada’s Northwest Passage have reached historic lows this summer due to global warming. Analysts say the Northwest Passage is also navigable for shipping but has relatively more ice than the Russian side.

Ice floes around the Arctic Circle typically recede during the summer months and return during the northern winter. But the ice continues to shrink during both seasonal cycles under the impact of climate change.

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