The cargo vessel “Hong Xing” belonging to the Chinese shipping company Cosco left the northeastern port of Dalian on Thursday and is expected to take 33 days to reach Europe via the Bering Strait and Russia’s northern coastline, South China Morning Post reports, citing China Daily.
The vessel is headed for Rotterdam and is due to arrive on September 11.
China has showed an increasing interest in the Arctic and received observer status in the Arctic Council during the ministerial meeting in Kiruna in May, along with other Asian states like Japan and South Korea.
In 2012 the icebreaker “Xue Long” (Snow Dragon) became the first ever Chinese vessel to sail all along the Northern Sea Route into the Barents Sea. This trip has “greatly encouraged” Chinese shipping companies, said Huigen Yang, director general of the Polar Research Institute of China at a conference about the Arctic in Oslo in March.
For China, the world’s No 2 economy after the United States, the route would save time and money. The distance from Shanghai to Hamburg is 5,200 kilometers shorter via the Arctic than via the Suez Canal, Yang said. According to Chinese longer-term scenarios, 5 to 15 per cent of China’s international trade, mostly container traffic, would use the route by 2020. Ten per cent of China’s projected trade by 2020, for instance, would be worth €526 billion. “If the route is constructively prepared … then the demand is there, it could be a huge number,” Huigen Yang said.