In what scientists say is an historic moment, both Northeast and Northwest Passages are navigable as of this week, and shipping firms are salivating over the possibilities, Der Spiegel reports. With an increasing number of largely ice-free days every summer, the radical shortcuts offered by the once-treacherous routes will eventually be incredibly profitable. At least one company is poised and eager to exploit them, when Russian authorities come through with permits.
"It is the first time, as far as I know, that both passages are navigable," says one scientist, who predicts that by the summer of 2030, the Arctic will be completely ice free for a few weeks at a time. Currently, the Northeast Passage is more than 50% ice-free for only 20 to 30 days a year, and the Northwest Passage a few days a year as well.