A bulk carrier loaded with 73,500 tons of coking coal from Canadian miner Teck Resources has completed the first major commercial voyage through the Northwest Passage, a once-impassable route that has opened from global warming.
The Nordic Orion left the Canadian Pacific port of Vancouver on Sept. 6 and completed the polar portion of the route this week, Reuters reports. The freighter is scheduled to arrive in the Finish port of Pori on Oct. 7, where it will deliver the coal to Finnish company Ruukki Metals Oy.
This is the first bulk carrier to complete the route, which has opened up due to climate change. The Danish operator of the ship, Nordic Bulk Carriers, estimates the route saved around $80,000 worth of fuel.
The Northwest Passage across the Arctic is 1,000 nautical miles shorter than traditional shipping route through the Panama Canal, says Nordic Bulk Carriers, a company that specializes in ice class ships.
The shorter route has the potential to save time, fuel and carbon dioxide emissions, the company says. The Northwest Passage is deeper the Panama Canal, allowing the Nordic Orion to carry 25 percent more cargo than is possible with the traditional transit route.
The Arctic trade route will be open for transit voyages for an estimated two months a years depending on the weather and ice conditions.
An Environmental Defense Fund study published in 2012 found while larger vessel sizes carrying cargo through an expanded Panama Canal could reduce CO2 emissions as much as 23 percent, other factors such as increased voyage distance and waterborne emissions essentially negate these GHG reductions. The study evaluated the environmental opportunities presented by the expansion of the Panama Canal — slated for completion in 2014 — for the intermodal container shipping industry.
The authors found that diverting cargoes from transportation modes with higher emissions per ton-mile (the emissions released by moving one ton of freight one mile) may not provide emission benefits. When taking future cargo volumes into consideration and assuming a 10 percent diversion from the west coast to the east coast, the effects of the expansion on CO2 emissions appear to be negligible because of longer distances traveled, the report concludes.
Photo Credit: Nordic Bulk Carriers