A cargo vessel carrying a shipment of nickel from Nunavik to China left Deception Bay, Que., on Friday to sail through the Northwest Passage.

Fednav, which owns the MV Nunavik, says it will be one of few commercial vessels to navigate the Northwest Passage, and the first to do so unescorted.

The ice-breaking bulk carrier is transporting 23,000 tons of nickel concentrate from the Canadian Royalties mine in Northern Quebec. Fednav says ice navigation specialists onshore will be helping the ship navigate ice conditions in the Passage. It also says the ship is equipped with an onboard ice-navigation system that will use real-time satellite imagery.

The shipping company says sailing through the Northwest Passage instead of the Panama Canal will cut down on travel time and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.