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Polar route opens up possibilities for Murmansk

Russia's maritime watchdog wants to encourage a northern sea route opening up between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as polar researchers reveal Arctic ice is melting faster than previously thought.

Most ships crossing the world's two largest oceans use Egypt's Suez Canal. On Thursday Sergey Bogdanchikov, CEO of Russian oil giant, Rosneft, backed a much faster route.

“The Arctic route gets to US markets some 3 times faster than through Arab states.”

Global warming's making it a hot alternative. On Wednesday, British polar researcher Pen Hadow said the Arctic in summer will be all but ice-free within a decade. Last month two German merchant ships became the first to cross without the help of icebreakers. Most of the passage goes through Russian waters, and Aleksandr Davydenko, Head of the Federal Sea and River Transport Agency is looking to encourage it.

“We want to attract business, not push it away, so our rules and fees will be fair. We're hoping the ice will melt soon.”

But Russia lacks the infrastructure to cope with the traffic. The Murmansk central port plans to become the hub for the new Atlantic to Pacific route. But on coal trade alone, it's already full to capacity.

Vitaly Morozov, CEO of Murmansk Sea Trade Port, knows if he doesn't boost facilities, shippers will go elsewhere

“The Northern Sea Route is fast becoming an issue. We're tendering for foreign companies to build new terminals.”

Experts say global trade growth makes a new route critical. Demand to cross the Suez next year is expected to be 50% more than its capacity.