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Polar shipping lanes that are opening up with the retreat of ice in the Arctic Ocean are attracting more traffic as instability in the Middle East raises concerns about the security of the Suez Canal.

A China Ocean Shipping Group Co. vessel docked in Rotterdam on Sept. 10 after sailing from Taicang City, near Shanghai, via the Arctic, two weeks after another Cosco craft came under fire in the canal. Taking a polar route cut the journey by nine days.

China is exploring its options as turmoil in Egypt and Syria combines with pirate attacks off Somalia and in the Malacca Strait, calling into question...

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