Though climate models exhibit broadly similar agreement on key long-term trends, they have significant temporal and spatial differences due to inter-model variability. Such variability should be considered when using climate models to project the future marine Arctic. Here we present multiple scenarios of 21 st -century Arctic marine access as driven by sea ice output from 10 CMIP5 models known to represent well the historical trend and climatology of Arctic sea ice. Optimal vessel transits from North America and Europe to the Bering Strait are estimated for two periods representing early-century (2011–2035) and mid-century (2036–2060) conditions under two forcing scenarios (RCP 4.5/8.5), assuming Polar Class 6 and open-water vessels with medium and no ice-breaking capability, respectively. Results illustrate that projected shipping viability of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and Northwest Passage (NWP) depends critically on model choice. The eastern Arctic will remain the most reliably accessible marine space for trans-Arctic shipping by mid-century, while outcomes for the NWP are particularly model-dependent. Omitting three models (GFDL-CM3, MIROC-ESM-CHEM, MPI-ESM-MR), our results would indicate minimal NWP potential even for routes from North America. Furthermore, the relative importance of the NSR will diminish over time as the number of viable central Arctic routes increases gradually toward mid-century. Compared to vessel class, climate forcing plays a minor role. These findings reveal the importance of model choice in devising projections for strategic planning by governments, environmental agencies, and the global maritime industry.