Environmental concerns have led Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) to reiterate that it will not be sending its vessels through the Northern Sea Route. It also urged others to follow suit
MSC CEO, Soren Toft said that “MSC will not seek to cut through the melting ice of the Arctic to find a new route for commercial shipping, and I consider this a position the whole shipping industry must adopt.”
MSC first said in 2019 that it would be avoiding the Northern Sea Route, including the Northeast and Northwest Passages. This would be part of an effort to limit black carbon and other environmental impacts in the region. Hapag-Lloyd and CMA CGM are among other shipping companies that have made similar commitments.
Toft said that “the Northern Sea Route is neither a quick fix for the current market challenges, nor a viable long-term strategy”.
MSC also believed that the risks of navigation incidents, fuel spills, air quality and altering the ecological balance/biodiversity of the marine habitat beneath the surface of the sea outweigh any commercial opportunities to make a short cut between North America or Europe and eastern Russia or Asia.
Bud Darr, Executive Vice President Maritime Policy & Government Affairs at MSC Group, said that “attempting to open new navigation routes which skim the polar ice cap sounds like the ignorant ambition of an 18th century explorer, when today we know that this would pose further risks to humans and many other species in that region, as well as worsen the impact of shipping upon climate change”.
Darr added that “there are no shortcuts toward genuine decarbonization of shipping and this is a shortcut that should definitely be avoided.”