Business, Economics and Jobs

Ob River may be first tanker to sail across Arctic


A boat skims through the melting ice in the Ilulissat fjord on Aug. 28, 2008, on the western coast of Greenland. This picture shows the Arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate.


Steen Ulrik Johannessen

Ob River may become to first oil tanker to sail across the Arctic during winter, the BBC reports.

Carrying liquefied natural gas, the ship left Hammerfest, Norway on Nov. 7th 2012, and is currently sailing through the Arctic Ocean. You can track the ship on this website.

Tony Lauritzen, commercial director at Dynagas, which chartered Ob River to Gazprom, spoke to the BBC about the venture.

"It's an extraordinarily interesting adventure," Lauritzen said.

"The people on board have been seeing polar bears on the route. We've had the plans for a long time and everything has gone well."

Lauritzen added increased ice melt made a trip plausible.

"We have studied lots of observation data - there is an observable trend that the ice conditions are becoming more and more favorable for transiting this route," Lauritzen said. "You are able to reach a highly profitable market by saving 40% of the distance, that's 40% less fuel used as well."

More from GlobalPost: Arctic Melt: Oil Rush at the Top of the World

In October, Platts website pointed out that if the route Ob River is taking becomes a viable channel for tankers, it could save 20 days of travel for Atlantic ships bound for Japan or South Korea, two large liquefied natural gas consumers.

For now the shipping route is full of ice and hazardous, but if melting trends continue, that could change.

This year, Arctic sea ice melt hit a record low, covering just 24 percent of Arctic Ocean. In 2011 ice covered 29 percent of the Arctic, which at the time was a a record.