Is the Arctic set to become a main shipping route?
The BBC is pushing this old fantasy again. And in good BBC style they start out with a deception -- when they claim: ‘But in 2014 the Nunavik became the first cargo ship to traverse the [Northwest] passage unescorted when it delivered nickel from the Canadian province of Quebec to China.’ It fails to mention the obviously important fact that Nunavik is an icebreaking bulk carrier with quite a high ice-rating
In 2014 the Nunavik became the first cargo ship to go through the Northwest Passage without an icebreaking escort ship leading the way. Climate change is increasingly opening up the Northwest Passage, an Arctic sea route north of the Canadian mainland.
Could it herald an era of more cargo shipping around the top of the world?
Back in the 19th Century there was a race to map and navigate the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean as a shortcut between the North Atlantic and North Pacific.
Explorers would take ships up Greenland's west coast, then try to weave through Canada's Arctic islands, before going down the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia.
The problem was that even in the summer the route was mostly blocked by impenetrable ice. On one of the best-known expeditions - that of the UK's Sir John Franklin in 1845 - all 129 crew members perished after their two vessels got stuck.
Today, more than 170 years later, a warming Arctic means that the route is increasingly accessible for a few months each summer.
And according to some estimates, Arctic ice is retreating to the extent that the Northwest Passage could become an economically viable shipping route.
For shipping firms transporting goods from China or Japan to Europe or the east coast of the US, the passage would cut thousands of miles off journeys that currently go via the Panama or Suez canals.
The Canadian government is certainly hopeful that this will be the case.
Late last month the country's trade minister Jim Carr said that the route "will in a matter of a generation, probably be available year round".
At the moment it is still a risky business though, with ice remaining a serious problem.
But in 2014 the Nunavik became the first cargo ship to traverse the passage unescorted when it delivered nickel from the Canadian province of Quebec to China.
Tim Keane, manager of Arctic operations for the ship's owner, Canadian maritime transport firm Fednav, was on board the Nunavik for the journey.
He says that the trip was pleasantly "boring" - the ship didn't have to spend days struggling through ice.
Instead it did the journey from Quebec to China in 26 days, more than two weeks less than the 41-day return via the Panama Canal.
"From a distance point of view it makes tremendous sense to use the Northwest Passage when it's available to you," he says.
While Fednav doesn't have immediate plans to use the route again, it remains a possibility depending on the cargo's destination, and the time of year.
A year prior to the Nunavik's journey, another large vessel - the Nordic Orion - became the first cargo ship to go through the passage, albeit led by a Canadian coastguard icebreaker.
Owner, Danish company Nordic Bulk Carriers, said afterwards that "we hope and expect to do it" again.