Hyundai Merchant Marine is looking at the possibility of reducing voyage times between Asia and Europe via the Arctic Sea as the polar region becomes more accessible to vessels amid global warning.
According to media reports, South Korea’s carrier is considering a trial sailing of the polar passage route from 2020 onwards with either a polar icebreaker blazing a trail for commercial boxships or use of ice-class vessels.
South Korean companies such as Hyundai Glovis, CJ Logistics, SLK Kukbo and Pan Ocean have made attempts to sail the polar routes, though they were unsustainable amid a shortage of specialised vessels and trained crew to deal with the challenges of navigating through such an environment.
The potential sea route may become the shortest connection between Asia and Europe, starting from the Korean port of Busan to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, the Arctic Sea and then to Europe. The voyage time between Busan and Rotterdam could be cut from 24 days to 14.
The route is now open for about four months in summertime though the pace of global warming and subsequent melting of the polar ice cap may make regular voyages feasible from 2030.
HMM is also considering deploying more containerships to deal with strong demand on the Asia-US routes in the months ahead. The carrier is anticipating a shortfall in available cargo space between August and October because US retailers are expected to order more goods from China and South East Asia prior to the Christmas season.