Communication and Support to Navigation on the TPP 

(by Karl Magnus Eger)


When considering possibilities for the Trans Polar Passage, there is currently no active vessel traffic service or other traffic management system in place in the waters of the Bering Strait. AIS capability and shore-based VHF communication services are also limited in the Bering Strait region.

Future sailings through the TPP will require significant improvements in marine communication technology. Communications using VHF, MF and HF as well as satellite are generally sufficient for the lower Arctic areas (parts of the NWP, southern Greenland waters and waters of the NSR). However, once the high Arctic is reached, voice and data transmission become problematic. Most modern ships are equipped with satellite digital communications equipment, not only for safety reasons but for the management and navigation of the ship. This equipment relies on geostationary INMARSAT satellites that do not provide service northward of about 80º N latitude, which makes it unsuitable for TPP.

Other systems, such as the IRIDIUM constellation of 66 polar orbiting satellites, provide worldwide coverage including the Arctic. The feasibility of communicating ice charts and satellite images to ships in the Arctic via the IRIDIUM system has been demonstrated but communications are limited. There is 100 % coverage of the Bering Strait region from the Global Positioning System-Standard Positioning Service. However, the GPS constellation is not configured for optimal positioning in high latitudes, resulting in a potential degradation of position accuracy1 . This can make marine transportation along various TPPs challenging in the future.


  •  1. AMSA (2009), Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment, Report, PAME, Arctic Council, Terragraphica, Anchorage, April 2009

Karl Magnus Eger, 2010, Communication and Support to Navigation on the TPP, CHNL.©