The Northern Sea Route versus the Suez Canal: cases from bulk shipping

Halvor Schøyen
Svein Bråthen


The navigation distance via the Northern Sea Route (NSR) from a Northwest-European port to the Far East is approximately 40% shorter compared to the route via the Suez Canal. The shorter distance may facilitate more than a doubling of vessels’ operational energy efficiency performance. There is at present substantial uncertainty in schedule reliability via the NSR. Unless the schedule reliability is improved, the NSR should primarily be explored for bulk rather than for liner shipping. A major disadvantage with the NSR is its seasonality. Shipping operations in the summer time via the NSR may already today be profitable for minor bulk trades. Additional shipping routes may give more flexibility, and the NSR route choice option may facilitate supply chain agility and adaptability.