The NSR enables voyages between the north of Europe and Asia to be shortened by as much as half and has started to see regular transit in recent years. Providing an alternative route to the congested Straits of Malacca and Singapore it has been a potential concern to the Lion City for a number of years as it would see ships bypassing Southeast Asia.
Speaking at an Arctic Frontiers event in Singapore on Friday Poulsson noted that the NSR was the part of Arctic shipping that gets the most media attention and regular transits were now taking place.
However he said: “But while the situation may change if the ice sheet continues to recede, the current importance of the Northern Sea Route should probably not be exaggerated.
“But we are still talking about only 40 complete transits a year, and there were only 19 in 2016. To put this in context, there were about 50,000 transits via the Suez Canal.”
The Malacca and Singapore Straits see near to 84,000 transits annually.
“Moreover, the need to employ the services of very expensive Russian ice breakers, and operate with special ice class ships at slower speeds, means that the Northern Sea Route is probably only viable for ships trading to ports north of Shanghai,” he added.