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Russia is sending a rare cargo of crude oil through the Arctic Sea to China, a move that will fan environmental concerns even if it means cheaper delivery costs for the nation’s petroleum.

The Aframax-class tanker Primorsky Prospect is heading north up the coast of Norway, showing its destination as Rizhao in China, where it’s due to arrive on Aug. 12. It is one of a handful of tracked cargoes on the route.

European Union sanctions have forced Russia to seek new markets for its crude. Those are mostly in China and India, adding thousands of miles to delivery times and making freight more costly.

While that might make the shorter Arctic route appealing, there has long been opposition to using the sea for merchant shipping. Organizations including the UN’s intergovernmental body for climate change have said doing so could have negative consequences for the region, including higher emissions and threats to marine ecosystems.

Using the so-called Northern Sea Route, or NSR, through the Arctic waters off Russia’s northern coast, could shave as much as two weeks, or about 30%, off the voyage compared with the southern route through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal.

More details: here.

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