The trip marks the first time a Chinese commercial vessel has sailed the Arctic sea route that links Europe with ports in East Asia by way of the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean north of Russia.
Using the northern route saves about two weeks compared with the southern alternative of sailing around south-east Asia, past India, through the pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea and past the Strait of Gibraltar.
Last year, 46 ships carrying just over one million tonnes of cargo sailed the northern route. That number is expected to rise to 40 million tonnes by 2021, still a long way from the 740 million tonnes of cargo that passed through the Suez Canal in 2012.
Despite the Yong Sheng’s successful journey, not everyone is convinced that the northern route will become a major part of Chinese shipping plans.
Analysts at the Arctic Institute pointed out that the Chinese and other Asian companies have many trade partners and investments in ports and infrastructure along the traditional southern routes. They believe that the northern route will be mostly used by Russia and other regional shippers.