A Chinese cargo ship embarked for Rotterdam, Holland on Thursday, making it the first to use a new trade route called the Northeastern Passage, or Northern Sea Route. Melting sea ice in the Arctic has opened the path, allowing Asian exporters a more direct route to Europe without having to sail through the Indian Ocean and up the Suez Canal.
"It takes about 23 days, versus 43 days through the Suez Canal. It saves a lot of fuel and it saves a lot of time," says Michelle Wiese Bockmann, shipping editor at OPIS, the Oil Price Information Service. "A lot of countries are very interested in seeing whether or not, during the summer, a little bit more volumn can be moved through this passage to save time and money."