S. Korea to launch pilot service on new North Pole shipping route

SEOUL, Sept. 12 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean shipping company is set to launch a pilot service on a new North Pole shipping route, becoming the first South Korean shipper to use a North Pole route, the government said Thursday.

Hyundai Glovis Co. will set sail from Russia's Ust-Luga port on Sunday, carrying 44,000 tons of naphtha, according to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries. The ship will likely arrive in South Korea's Gwangyang port in mid-October.

The company will use a Swedish vessel as no South Korean shipper currently owns an icebreaker.

The ministry, however, said it will still provide a valuable opportunity to learn and experience how to operate an Arctic route in extreme conditions. The country currently operates one icebreaker, Araon, but mostly for research and rescue missions.

Using the Arctic route can cut the distance of travel from South Korea to northern European countries by 7,000 kilometers and the duration of travel by up to 15 days from the 22,000-kilometer journey that takes up to 40 days when using the conventional shipping route through the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal.

"The Arctic route is still in the early stage of its development and it can currently be used for only about four months in a year," the ministry said in a press release. "But it still has great potential as the period of time it can be used is expanding with various Arctic development projects underway."

South Korea is moving to strengthen its presence in the Arctic, also seeking joint development of natural resources in the region with Russia and other countries. It is also considering building its second icebreaker.

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