Page 54: of Maritime Logistics Professional Magazine (Q1 2011)
54 Maritime Professional 1Q 2011
T he Arctic is in many respects the new maritime frontier. Long known as a complicated operat- ing environment, the changing Arctic holds many new opportunities while presenting a host of unique challenges and risks. Marine access in the Arctic
Ocean is surely increasing due to the extraordinary reductions in Arctic sea ice thickness and extent observed in recent decades. Likewise, the Arctic is becoming more integrated with the global economy through the develop- ment of a vast storehouse of natural resources. Geopolitics in the region ~ the relationships among the eight Arctic states and their links with non-Arctic states ~ have become more visible as state interests emerge in a new century of Arctic development. It is the inter- section of these drivers of change that poses significant uncertainties for the future of Arctic marine operations.
Efforts to enhance Arctic marine safe- ty and environmental protection have recently been advanced by the work of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmen- tal forum of the eight Arctic states. The
Arctic Ministers approved an Arctic
Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) on 29 April 2009, a study the Arctic
Council had initiated in 2005 under the
Council’s working group Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME). The AMSA 2009 Report iden- tified more than 90 specific findings and a central theme noted throughout the study was the need for extensive international cooperation in the Arctic to address a host of maritime deficien- cies in the region. PAME on behalf of the Council is currently tracking the implementation status for each of
AMSA’s 17 recommendations agreed to by the Arctic states in 2009.
AMSA confirmed that the global marine industry has already arrived in the Arctic Ocean early in the 21st cen- tury to primarily support natural resource development and regional trade. The growing presence of cruise ships in the Arctic, especially in
Greenlandic waters, and the increased numbers of research icebreakers in the central Arctic Ocean are new uses that could not have been easily anticipated.
AMSA indicated that a vast majority of
Arctic voyages today are destinational (meaning the ship sails north, performs some marine activity, and sails south).
There are a handful of trans-Arctic voy- ages today, mostly notably conducted along Russia’s Northern Sea Route across the top of Eurasia in 2009 and 2010. AMSA anticipates more ships attempting trans-Arctic voyages during future summers of reduced Arctic sea ice or even ice-free conditions, and even a much greater presence of ships in
Arctic coastal waters conducting sea- sonal operations.
One of the challenges to Arctic marine navigation is the presence of sea ice and AMSA addresses the current sit- uation with a view toward correcting several misinterpretations. The Arctic sea ice cover continues to diminish in unprecedented ways (in extent, thick- ness and the area of multiyear ice) pro- viding increased marine access and potentially longer seasons of navigation along all Arctic marine routes.
However, the winter sea ice cover will remain ~ through the century and beyond ~ and extensive areas of the
Arctic Ocean will be partially ice-cov- ered in spring, summer and autumn.
The risks and regulatory implications of this variable ice coverage are clear: future ships navigating in these Arctic waters will normally require some level of polar or ice class capability.
There will certainly be summer sea- sons with ‘windows of opportunity of ice-free conditions’ when perhaps ocean going carriers could voyage into the Arctic Ocean. However, key uncer- tainties remain: how ‘ice-free’ the con- ditions will actually be; the regional year-to-year sea ice variability; how insurers will deal with non-polar class ships in Arctic waters; and, what the regulatory response of the Arctic coastal states will be to such operations.
As AMSA indicated, today there is a general lack of uniform, mandatory and non-discriminatory Arctic ship regula- tions. There are no international, ice navigation standards for mariners oper- ating in the Arctic Ocean. And, there are no specifically-tailored , mandatory environmental standards developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for vessels operating in the
Arctic. Future Arctic marine activities will also present additional, significant challenges. Many of the new ships will be operated by non-Arctic stakeholders, some with little polar experience.
There will be multiple users in Arctic waterways (where there have been few in the past). And, there will be the potential for overlap of new marine operations with traditional uses by indigenous Arctic communities.
ARCTIC OCEAN GOVERNANCE
AMSA is very clear that governance of Arctic shipping is similar to all other oceans and hence the Arctic Ocean is not in a chaotic, unmanaged state as
Arctic Maritime Challenges & Risks
Long known as a complicated operating environment, the changing Arctic holds many new opportunities while presenting a host of unique challenges and risks. . by Lawson W. Brigham, PhD