(Kitakyushu City, Japan) -- A massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker arrived in Japan on Wednesday (December 5), becoming the first vessel of its kind to successfully test a new trade route though Arctic waters.
The new marine route, opening up as Arctic sea-ice continues to shrink, offers traders a chance to shave nearly three weeks off voyage times from LNG plants in the Barents Sea to energy-hungry Asia.
In September researchers at NASA announced sea-ice coverage had retreated to its lowest level since records began in 1979.
LNG tanker Ob River was chartered on the voyage to Japan by the trading arm of Russia's Gazprom from the world's northernmost liquefaction plant, operated by Norway in the Barents Sea.
Local media said the tanker was carrying about 60,000 tons of LNG.
The route is currently open only four months of the year, but could now boost Russian plans to build an LNG plant in the Arctic.
Asia is the world's top importer of LNG, and Japan is boosting its consumption after last year's crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant shifted its national energy appetite.
But Norwegian LNG bound for Asia currently takes a roundabout course down through the Mediterranean, incurs charges when transiting the Suez Canal and exposes tankers to piracy risks in the Gulf of Aden.
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