A massive LNG tanker is on its way to become the first ship of its type to sail across the Arctic. The Ob River left Norway in November and has sailed north of Russia on its way to Japan.
The specially equipped Greek tanker is scheduled to arrive in early December, cutting 20 days off the regular journey. Changing climate conditions and an unstable gas market make the Arctic transit profitable.
The ship has been accompanied by a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker for much of its voyage. With an international crew of 40, Ob River has been chartered from its Greek owners Dynagas by the Russian Gazprom energy giant.
A Dynagas spokesperson stated that a key factor in the decision to use the northern route was the recent scientific record on melting in the Arctic, according to BBC News. Observations show that a ship can save 40% of the distance and fuel. However, other industry experts claim that the changes in climate are less important than the growing demand for oil and gas.
BBC reports that there is an expectation that because of changing climactic conditions, sea traffic across the northern sea route will increase rapidly. 2012 has been a record year both for the length of the sailing season and also for the amount of cargo that has been shipped.