The ice-diminishing Arctic Ocean has inspired the world's shipping industry to explore the feasibility of the historical Arctic routings, on the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage, at least as seasonal commercial operations. Both of the routes could significantly shorten travel distances between Europe, East Coast of America and Far East Asia. The feasibility of the Arctic routes is discussed, mostly based on the integrated outcome of the International Northern Sea Route Programme, which was conducted soon after the Russian declaration of the NSR as an international sea lane.
Responding to the world's growing demand for oil and gas, Arctic resources have been given much attention by the energy and shipping industries. In addition, global warming has accelerated oil and gas development in the Arctic, particularly in its western region. The icediminishing Arctic has inspired the world's shipping industry to explore the feasibility of the historical Arctic routes, the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and the Northwest Passage (NWP), as seasonal commercial sea lanes, at least. The NSR is a waterway from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean along the Russian coast of Siberia, lying mostly in the Russian Arctic waters, which markedly reduces the distance by 40%, comparing with the traditional route via the Suez Canal. Before the beginning of the 20th century the Northern Sea Route (NSR) was known as the Northeast Passage (NEP), or Sevmorput in Russian. Along the NWP, the saving in travel distance of about 5,000nm from Asia to Europe by avoiding the Panama Canal eventually should prevail within the shipping industry. The NSR was officially opened up in 1987 by Russia to the international shipping industry. Responding to this declaration, a comprehensive and multidisciplinary feasibility study of the NSR, called the International Northern Sea Route Programme (INSROP), started in 1993 and ended in 1999.