The shortening of the northern sea route (NSR) as more ice melts would speed up passages between Europe and Asia and save more money on fuel.

Laurence Smith and Scott Stephenson of the University of California said ordinary vessels should be able to travel easily along the current NSR, and the pole route would only need "moderately ice-strengthened ships."

The scientists took two classes of vessels and then simulated whether they would be able to steam through the sea ice expected in seven different climate models.