Page 56: of Maritime Logistics Professional Magazine (Q1 2011)

Maritime Risk

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56 Maritime Professional 1Q 2011

Governance (the degree of relative sta- bility of rules for marine use within the

Arctic, and internationally). Global cli- mate change and continued Arctic sea ice retreat are assumed in AMSA to improve marine access. However, glob- alization of the Arctic and development of natural resources are primary drivers of marine traffic. The future of Arctic marine operations is linked to the glob- al economy, and to global and regional economic factors.


The greatest concern in the Arctic that directly relates to risk and was identi- fied in AMSA is the general lack of marine infrastructure except for the

Norwegian coast and coastal regions of northwest Russia. It is very difficult to adequately evaluate the risks associated with Arctic marine operations knowing that there is a huge deficit in marine infrastructure in most regions of the

Arctic and a very minimal, if nonexist- ent safety net. Emergency response in

Arctic waters is difficult because of the remoteness and vastness of the region, as well as the harshness of the environ- ment. AMSA highlighted the very lim- ited hydrographic database to support marine charting for current and future

Arctic marine activities. And the same can be said for meteorological and oceanographic observations key to safe navigation ~ they are extremely spare in the Arctic Ocean and not adequate for increased marine operations.

Also identified by AMSA as missing or lacking in much of Arctic are: ports and port facilities; salvage; search and rescue (SAR) capability; environmental response capacity; ship monitoring and tracking; aids to navigation; and, ade- quate communications (coverage and reliability). The Arctic states and the maritime industry must recognize the critical importance of investing today in the Arctic’s marine infrastructure.

Without such robust investment, efforts will be constrained to reduce the overall risks of Arctic operations and signifi- cantly enhance marine safety and envi- ronmental protection.


Arctic risk mitigation efforts have been ongoing for more than two decades. Foremost among them has been the continuing development of an international regulatory system for both polar regions ~ a polar code of naviga- tion ~ that has focused primarily on ship construction and structural standards, ice navigation competency in the pilot- house, and polar safety equipment. The

IMO Guidelines for Ships Operating in

Arctic Ice-Covered Waters (2002) and the International Association of

Classification Society’s Unified

Requirements for Polar Class (2007) have been critical accomplishments in formulating a broad risk management strategy for polar ship operations. And, in December 2009 IMO broadened the voluntary guidelines to include the

Antarctic and noted the lack of marine infrastructure in both remote regions, a very key element within AMSA.

IMO is currently developing a manda- tory and transparent polar code sched- uled for promulgation in 2012.

Fundamental to any future code are the elements of training and qualification for the ‘ice navigator’ position for all future polar ships. The industry move- ment to future operation of independ- ently operated Arctic carriers (without icebreaker escort) and the limited avail- ability of mariners with ice navigation experience highlight the urgent need for robust international qualification stan- dards. However, the IMO has not yet set any mandatory competency stan- dards for ice navigation in its

International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and

Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

Additional Arctic risk mitigation ini- tiatives are underway. The Arctic

Council moved quickly in 2009 to establish a task force on Arctic SAR, led by the U.S. and Russia, which is drafting an Arctic SAR agreement (marine and terrestrial) to be signed by the eight Arctic Ministers in May 2011.

Another topic for a possible future agreement under the Arctic Council framework could be environmental response capacity. Industry best prac- tices for the ice impacts on offshore structures are being explored in a joint industry-DNV project. AMSA and the

Arctic states have strongly encouraged the cruise ship operators to develop, implement and share their best practices associated with rescue and emergency operations in cold, remote regions.

IMO voluntary guidelines on this criti- cal cruise ship issue have been promul- gated, but many would urge more robust operational planning and risk analyses by the industry. There is also an important role for the marine insur- ance industry in dealing with non-polar ships operating in remote, unforgiving polar environments.

The ‘future development’ of the mar- itime Arctic is already upon us ~ the global marine industry has arrived prior to the full implementation of adequate and effective international Arctic marine safety and environmental regu- lations. Thus the challenges and risks of Arctic marine operations remain many, and this situation will require his- toric international cooperation among the Arctic states, within IMO, and between industry, governments and the people who live in the Arctic.


The Author

Lawson W. Brigham, PhD is Distinguished

Professor of Geography and Arctic Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and dur- ing 2005-09 he was Chair of the Arctic

Council’s Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment ( He is a retired U.S. Coast

Guard captain with icebreaker experience in the Arctic, Antarctic and on the Great Lakes.

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