SEOUL, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- The South Korean shipping company Hyundai Glovis on Monday wrapped up the nation's first cargo transportation through a North Pole shipping route emerged as a result of the melting Arctic sea ice, the country's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said Tuesday.
After its 35-day navigation, the Swedish icebreaker Stena Polaris carrying 44,000 tons of naphtha for Hyundai Glovis arrived at Gwangyang Port, South Jeolla Province of South Korea on Monday.
The icebreaker Stena Polaris set sail from Russia's Ust-Luga port on Sept. 16 and traveled a total distance of about 15,000 kilometers.
The Arctic passage is expected to cut the travel distance from the South Korea to northern European countries by 7,000 kilometers and the duration of the journey by around 10 days, compared to the use of the conventional shipping route through the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal.
But the Stena Polaris traveled five days longer than expected due to bad weather, according to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.
The Swedish icebreaker took this voyage because no South Korean shipping company owns an ice-breaker. The country launched the first-ever ice-breaker Araon in 2010, which is mostly applied to scientific research and rescue mission.
"We are seeing valuable accomplishments through this pilot operation. The South Korean shipping company secured cargoes, had experts and seamen boarded, and for the first time ever, operated through the North Pole Route, which was an area foreign shipping companies mainly operated in," said Ki-Jeong Jeon, assistant minister for the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries during a ceremony held at Gwangyang port on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said this pilot operation will serve as a lesson for other shipping companies in establishing strategies on their starting businesses in Arctic area.
More Arctic shipping routes are expected to open up due to global warming in the once-frozen seas. But most of the routes are currently only accessible to ice-breakers.
The ministry said although the transit across the Arctic remains highly seasonal, limited to only four months in a year, more opportunities lie ahead as lots of Arctic development projects are underway.
The South Korean government, in this regard, will strengthen cooperation with Russia and other countries around the Arctic area, and support the country's shipping companies so that they can successfully tap into the North Pole Route, according to the ministry.
South Korea, along with China, India, Japan, Singapore and Italy were granted permanent observer status in the Arctic Council in May.