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REYKJAVIK – (AFP) – The first Chinese ship has travelled from the Pacific to Atlantic via the Arctic along the Russian coast, an Icelandic scientist who participated on the expedition said Friday.
The Chinese icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, docked in Iceland after having sailed the so-called Northern Sea Route from the Pacific, Egill Thor Nielsson told AFP.
“This is the first Chinese ship to sail this route and of course it is important because it’s a more than 40 percent shorter route to Europe,” he said.
The Chinese are even more interested in this route after having found the passage relatively easy.
“It took almost ten days to sail from the East Siberian Sea and through the Barents Sea, and during that time there was real pack ice for only seven days,” he said.
Climate change is opening the prospect of commercial shipping via the Northern Sea Route or the Northwest Passage north of Canada.
More and more ships are travelling via the Northern Sea Route. Four made the passage in 2010, 34 last year and the figure will be higher this year, said Nielsson.
The Snow Dragon, bought from Ukraine in 1993, is currently China’s only ice breaker. A second being built in China with the help of a Finnish company, should be completed in 2014.