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Why Norway's shipping industry sees Arctic boom

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The top of the world is about to get a lot busier as shipping lines and energy companies look to make the most of new trade routes and uncovered natural resources in the Arctic.

Boasting the world's second largest and most advanced offshore fleet, Norway's shipping industry is joining in on the rush to the Arctic, Sturla Henriksen, the director general of the Norwegian Shipowners' Association told CNBC on Thursday.

Norway is developing three "categories" of economic activity in the region, he noted. "One is related to offshore oil and gas production, the second category is regional shipping and the third one, which has received most attention, is the trans-Atlantic sailing which will cut sailing distances between Asia and our European port by a third," he told CNBC Europe's Squawk Box.

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"Here we find approximately a tenth of the world's undiscovered oil resources, approximately a third of the world's gas resources [and] vast natural resources of rare earth minerals."

Despite the opportunities, Henriksen added that global warming should be a "major concern" for everyone -- two-thirds of summer ice has disappeared over the last three decades , he noted.

(Read more: Shipping industry not outof danger yet: Analyst)

Henriksen also denied the shipping industry had contributed much of the carbon emissions believed to cause climate change.

"Shipping is one of the most energy efficient modes of transportation," he said. "It carries 90 percent of all international trade and emits 2.7 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions so that's a modest fraction…That does not mean that we should not take this seriously and there are a host of [environmental] measures being introduced [in the shipping industry]."

(Read more: Worst is over, but so are the glory days: Maersk CFO)

Many international shipping companies are trying to make their ships more fuel-efficient – also in an attempt to reduce costs — as the industry tries to recover from the economic crisis. As demand fell, shipping companies were faced with massive overcapacity, caused in part by a large number of new ships coming into service, and tumbling freight rates.

Henriksen believed the industry as a whole would recover, however. "In general, I think shipping is set to increase. Oversupply is starting to be reduced and the demand for shipping services has increased."

- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt

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