Political map of the Arctic & the Far North 15 January 2019 (The Arctic Today): The past few years have seen the continued decline of Arctic sea ice (Arctic sea ice decline), with sea ice extents reaching record lows in 2016 and again in 2017 (similar but not record levels were recorded in 2018). Low sea ice levels have contributed to both extreme weather events and ecosystem collapse in the northern regions, and opened up the Arctic for increased shipping. In August 2017 a Russian tanker completed the Northern Sea Route without icebreakers—the first ship to do so in history—and a year later the cargo ship Venta Maersk became the first commercial ship to make the route.