Two major Arctic shipping routes have opened as summer sea ice melts, satellites have found. The European Space Agency's Envisat shows both Canada's Northwest Passage and Russia's Northern Sea Route open simultaneously.Shipping companies are already eyeing the benefits these routes may bring if they remain open regularly. A number of major shipping companies are looking to the opening of these routes to shorten journey times and make their businesses more efficient. The Northern Sea Route has been free enough of ice this month for a succession of tankers carrying natural gas condensate from the northern port of Murmansk to sail along the Siberian coast en route for Thailand.
"But this time they've really been open, with a proper Suez-size tanker going through the Northern Sea Route with a full cargo - that's a real step forward" observed Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice expert from the University of Cambridge.