[Show/Hide Left Column]

Places of Refuge in the Arctic

(from AMSA Report 2009)


The Ilulissat Declaration outlined the need to cooperate to improve search and rescue and disaster response capability in the Arctic as marine activity increases. Central to this objective is the need for deepwater places of refuge and marine salvage/support capability.

According to IMO’s Guidelines on Places of Refuge for Ships in Need of Assistance, a place of refuge means a location where a ship in need of assistance can take action to enable it to stabilize its condition and reduce the hazards to navigation, and to protect human life and the environment. A ship in need of assistance means a ship in a situation, apart from one requiring rescue of persons on board, which could give rise to the loss of the vessel or an environmental or navigational hazard.

With an increase in international Arctic shipping, it is likely that ships in need of assistance may need to request refuge in sheltered waters of the Arctic states. There are likely to be significant practical difficulties to be encountered in finding and supporting suitable places of refuge for ships in need of assistance in the Arctic and in providing such ships with adequate support. In the Arctic, harsh environmental conditions and increasing marine traffic densities make this course of action even more critical. Potential place of refuge guidelines detail the process by which port authorities decide where to allow a damaged ship to berth. In an attempt to balance shipping interests with the protection of natural and cultural resources, selection of such places should incorporate input from potentially affected governments, communities, the shipping industry and other stakeholders. Authorities should also rank places based on seasonal environmental conditions.

The European Union Places of Refuge Framework provides a model for the development of potential place of refuge guidelines by Arctic nations. Western Norway has an established system for places of refuge based on IMO guidelines and the EU framework, including predefined places if applicable. The system will be expanded to include the entire Norwegian coast, including Svalbard, by late 2009 or early 2010. The places of refuge are evaluated based on the EU Safety at Sea project.


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

    Search Guide [toggle]