China will soon publish its first guide to Arctic sailing through the Northern Sea Route, a newly discovered shortcut that will help Chinese shipping companies reduce transit times between China and Europe.
The guide will offer "comprehensive, practical and authoritative" information for Chinese cargo ships for sailing through the Northern Sea Route, or Northeast Passage, to Europe, Zhai Jiugang, deputy head of the Ministry of Transport's Maritime Safety Administration, said at a news conference in Beijing on Thursday. He said the guide will be released in July.
The new route can save Chinese cargo ships 5,186 kilometers and nine days from the traditional voyage to Europe, which goes through the Malacca Straits and the Suez Canal, he said.
The Northern Sea Route is a shipping lane officially defined by Russian legislation to run from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, specifically running along the Russian Arctic coast from Murmansk on the Barents Sea, along Siberia, to the Bering Strait and Far East.
The guide elaborates on such things as the Northern Sea Route's nautical chart, sailing methods, ice-breaking providers and Arctic geography and climate, as well as laws and regulations of countries along the route, according to Wang Liangyu, a maritime mapping expert with the ministry's Donghai Navigation Safety Administration, which led the making of the guide.
The book's publication will make China the second country after Russia to issue an Arctic voyage guide.
There are three main shipping passages across the Arctic region, and the Northern Sea Route opens at the end of July for about four months. It is deemed the most economical route in the region because it has the shortest distance, 5,437 km. However, it was long marginalised because of ice blockage.
With the effects of global warming, the route has become more accessible for ships because the ice is melting faster. A total of 46 commercial ships went through the lane last year.
One of these ships, the Yongsheng of China Ocean Shipping (Group) Co, made China's first voyage through the route. The 19,461-ton vessel set sail on Aug 8 from Dalian, in Northeast China's Liaoning province, and arrived in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on Sept 10, saving about half a month compared with the time required by traditional routes, according to the company.
"More than 90 per cent of China's international trade is carried out by sea, so once the route is completely open, it will significantly facilitate the cargo shipping and trade sectors in China," said Wang Hexun, director of the Donghai Navigation Safety Administration.