September 12 - When China Ocean Shipping Company's (COSCO) multipurpose heavy lift vessel, Yong Sheng, arrived in Rotterdam earlier this week, she sailed into the record books as the first Chinese ship to traverse the Northern Sea Route across the top of

The route has seen increased traffic flow in recent years, with some describing the path as an ice-free alternative to the traditional South China Sea and Strait of Malacca trade options.

Since setting sail from Dalian in Northeastern China in August there has been widespread PR and media coverage accompanying the voyage, which was nine days and 2,800 nautical miles less than the conventional routes transiting the Strait of Malacca and the Suez Canal.

Much of that coverage has been in the mainstream media speculating that this voyage heralds a sea change in Far East - Europe container shipping routes.

Experts on the other hand describe the route as a "seasonal supplement", suggesting it is not really a viable alternative to the Suez Canal option. Ice coverage in the region may have reached all-time low levels last year but the fact remains that the Arctic is largely icebound for about nine months out of each year - providing a window of just three months.