On board a Russian ice-breaking ship
21 September 2010 Last updated at 18:09 BST
Politicians and scientists from around the world are discussing the future of the Arctic at a conference in the Russian capital, Moscow.
The dramatic shrinking of the polar ice cap in recent years is rapidly opening up the Arctic region making huge reserves of oil and gas accessible for the first time.
Countries such as Russia are now scrambling for control of these resources. But a few weeks ago the Russian government also opened up a new shipping lane - the North-East passage - linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The route running along Russia's northern coast could make it much easier for Russia to send oil and gas exports to Asia.
Richard Galpin travelled to the far eastern region of Chukotka to get on board one of the ships involved.