"This route is radically shorter than the normal trip through the Suez Canal. From Hamburg to the Japanese port city of Yokohama, for example, the trip using the northern route is just 7,400 nautical miles -- just 40 percent of the 11,500 nautical mile haul through the Suez. Dangerous ice floes normally block the shorter route, but as of a few days ago the Northeast Passage is ice-free according to Christian Melsheimer of the University of Bremen. Scientists at the university use data from the NASA satellite "Aqua" to cobble together up-to-date maps of sea ice."
"Still, it will likely be a while until the first ships sail through the passage. Russian authorities have still not issued the necessary permits allowing shipping companies like Beluga to take advantage of the Arctic shortcut this year. Nevertheless, Beckhusen emphasizes that the Northeast Passage is of strategic importance to her company."