Arctic State Challenges in the Arctic

(from AMSA Report 2009)


A significant challenge facing the Arctic states is to recognize the international nature of shipping in the Arctic Ocean and to effectively engage with a very broad range of non-Arctic actors, stakeholders and decision-makers. Recognition of this global reach of the maritime industry also includes a responsibility to work toward balancing historic navigation rights under UNCLOS with regimes and mechanisms designed to enhance marine safety and to protect the Arctic marine environment. A major task will be for the Arctic states to convince the IMO membership to take into account the uniqueness of marine operations in the Arctic and work within the IMO and other global organizations for international standards. The Arctic states must also recognize there may be a host of new maritime players at the table with a stake in the future use of the Arctic Ocean.

If the retreat of Arctic sea ice continues, marine access should improve throughout the Arctic basin. Complementing this change will be new Arctic ship designs that will also allow greater access and independent operations (without icebreaker escort) during potentially longer seasons of navigation. Such extended marine operations will require greatly expanded search and rescue cooperation and expanded regional environmental response networks. Information and data sharing may also be a key to the future of the maritime Arctic.

Expanded surveillance and monitoring of marine operations, particularly in the central Arctic Ocean, will require agreements among the Arctic states (and other interested parties such as flag states) for the rapid transfer of ship transit information. Monitoring of the environment could be enhanced by the establishment of a Sustainable Arctic Observing Network (SAON), an activity that was promoted during the International Polar Year. Expanded traffic in the central Arctic Ocean will provide new and unique challenges to the Arctic states and the global maritime community, since there will be a lack of communications, salvage and other critical infrastructure.

The AMSA scenarios effort has identified three key issues, among many, for the Arctic states: the ongoing globalization of the Arctic through natural resource development and resulting destinational marine traffic; arrival of the global maritime industry in the Arctic Ocean with Arctic voyages of large tankers, cruise ships and bulk carriers on regional and destinational voyages; and the lack of international policies, until now, in the form of maritime governance to meet this arrival.

The Arctic states will continue to be challenged by a widespread lack of adequate maritime infrastructure to cope with current and future levels of Arctic marine operations. In order to better enhance marine safety and environmental protection, the Arctic states working within the IMO could develop an integrated, or complementary, system of rules and regulations governing Arctic marine activity. The Arctic states must continue to engage non-Arctic states and global institutions that will influence the future of Arctic marine operations. More cooperation in Arctic maritime affairs among the eight Arctic states will be an imperative to address complex marine use issues in an uncertain future.


    Arctic Council, 2009, Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA), Arctic Council.©

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