Arctic shipping route may take 20 years, Maersk CEO: FT

STOCKHOLM (AFP) - Commercial shipping routes across the Arctic will not be a reality for at least a decade or two, the head of the world's biggest container line told the Financial Times on Monday.

Maersk chief executive Nils Andersen told the newspaper that an Arctic shortcut - expected to slash journey times between China and Europe - is "not something that will happen within the next 10 to 20 years."

The first commercial Chinese vessel recently sailed through the Northeast Passage, prompting speculation about a boom in Arctic shipping.

The shipping route north of Russia has been opened up by global warming and cuts thousands of miles - and about two weeks - off the journey from China, the world's biggest exporter, to its key European markets.

However it is currently only viable for commercial shipping for about four months a year when the polar ice melts enough to open up a safe route.

Icebreakers are nonetheless needed to assist the ships through the waters, rendering it a costly option.