By Josh Gabbatiss
14 February 2018

(The Independent) – A ship has made a winter crossing of the Arctic without an icebreaker for the first time as global warming causes the region’s ice sheets to melt.

The tanker, containing liquefied natural gas, is the first commercial vessel to make such a crossing alone during the winter months.

The voyage is a significant moment in the story of climate change in the Arctic and will be seized on by those with concerns about thinning polar ice and its implications for the environment.

Belonging to the shipping company Teekay, the ship Eduard Toll made its way from South Korea to the Sabetta terminal in northern Russia in December.

From there, it sailed to Montoir in France to deliver a load of liquefied natural gas.

A similar vessel made the same crossing in August last year, but this is the first time it has been completed when the temperatures are at their coldest.

“The people and passion one needs for an ice passage like this cannot be underestimated,” Teekay gas group’s president and chief executive, Mark Kremin, told TradeWinds.

As global warming leads to melting Arctic ice, areas of the northern oceans are becoming accessible to vessels for the first time. […]

Screenshot from a video showing the 'Eduard Toll', an icebreaker LNG Carrier, as it crosses the Arctic in February 2018. It's the first winter crossing of the Arctic without an icebreaker as global warming causes the region’s sea ice to melt. Photo: Teekay Corporation

As for the opening of trade routes, environmentalists have noted the irony in the rapidly warming Arctic seas being used as a highway for fossil fuel transport.

“The Arctic has already exceeded the Paris agreement’s aspiration of limiting warming to 1.5C, and the agreed target of 2C. In some areas it has warmed by 4C,” said Sarah North, senior oil strategist for Greenpeace International.

“Inevitably, this has caused massive changes, with most of the Arctic ice having already disappeared. And so now, ironically, we can deliver fossil fuels more quickly. It’s like a heavy smoker using his tracheotomy to smoke two cigarettes at once.”  [more]

Ship makes history by taking Arctic sea route in winter without icebreaker for first time

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