One consequence of melting Arctic ice caps is the commercial viability of the Northern Sea Route, connecting East Asia with Europe. This represents a sizeable reduction in shipping distances and average transportation days compared to the conventional Southern Sea Route. We examine the economic impact of opening this route in a multi-sector Eaton–Kortum model with intermediate linkages. We find remarkable shifts in trade flows between Asia and Europe, diversion of trade within Europe, heavy shipping traffic in the Arctic and a substantial drop in Suez traffic. Projected shifts in trade also imply substantial pressure on an already threatened Arctic ecosystem.