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A Danish ship could be charting a course for other international vessels by sailing through the Northwest Passage this week with a load of coal — the first commercial bulk carrier to do so.

A Danish ship could be charting a course for other international vessels by sailing through the Northwest Passage this week with a load of coal — the first commercial bulk carrier to do so.

The Nordic Orion is headed to Finland from Vancouver.

Mats Petersen, a spokesperson for Nordic Bulk Carriers, says his company also travels the Northern Sea Route off Russia, also known as the Northeast Passage.

"I think this has much to do with how much ice you have in the Northwest Passage,” he said.

“Also, our company has been one of the first companies to pioneer the development of commercial shipping in the Northern Sea Route, so naturally our focus has been there."

But the thinning ice does not make sailing easy. Waguih Rayes  of Desgagnes Transarctic, which brings annual supplies to the most Northern communities, says the reliability of the route is not yet proven.

“Even if in certain years, we see that the ice is gone in certain areas of the passage, the following year you can never say it'll be the same situation.”

The Nordic Orion entered the Northwest Passage on Tuesday and plans to leave the eastern end of the Passage at the beginning of next week.