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Arctic Shipping: Transit Still Far off, but Legal Regime Needs Strengthening
Arctic shipping
(13.04.2007) Shipping in the Arctic will increase rapidly due to climate change, but large-scale transit operations are still far off. The current legal regime for Arctic shipping is to some extent inadequate to accommodate developments. These were the main conclusions from a seminar FNI organized this week on the prospects for Arctic shipping.

The first session of the seminar focused on the general picture and outlook for (trans)Arctic shipping. Former Head of FNI's INSROP Secretariat Claes Lykke Ragner made an outline of previous research and current knowledge regarding the potential of transarctic shipping. Dr. Lawson Brigham, Deputy Director of the US Arctic Research Commission and former US Coast Guard polar icebreaker captain, then commented on what recent sea ice trends will mean for Arctic navigation. He also presented the current work of the Arctic Council's Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA), which he chairs. Finally, Director Lars Almklov of the Norwegian Shipowners' Association offered some industry perspectives on the outlook and conditions for regional and transit shipping in the Arctic.

The three agreed that while it now seems probable that climate change and the receding ice cover eventually will enable transarctic navigation, large-scale transit usage on commercial terms is not likely to be feasible for another several decades, mainly because ice conditions will still be too severe and too variable. All speakers however expected a continued large increase in regional traffic, not least cruiser traffic around Greenland and in other Arctic areas, as well as traffic related to petroleum development in and around the Barents and Kara Seas.

The second session focused on legal, regulatory and administrative aspects of Arctic shipping. FNI Researcher Øystein Jensen made an outline of the main unsettled legal issues of relevance to Arctic shipping, while Senior Vice President Wilhelm Magelssen of DNV spoke on the special challenges that Arctic operation poses for ships and crews, and how this should be regulated to minimize risk. Finally, the Chairman of the EU Maritime Policy Task Force, John Richardson, spoke on the EU Maritime Policy Green Paper and its relevance for Arctic shipping.

There was agreement that the legal regime regulating Arctic navigation is weak in some respects. There is a need to settle a number of jurisdictional questions and conflicts, to strengthen operational regulations, and to improve marine environmental protection. There appeared to be a strong consensus at the seminar that this should mainly be done through state implementation of binding, global IMO regulations.

Approximately 50 persons participated at the seminar, with good representation from the shipping industry, regulating authorities, academia and environmental NGOs.

The presentations:
Electronic versions of the presentations are available – please contact Claes Lykke Ragner.

Further information:
   Download program/invitation
   Read more about FNI research on Polar & Russian affairs
   Read more about FNI research on marine affairs and Law of the Sea
   Read more about the FNI-coordinated International Northern Sea Route Programme – INSROP (1993-99).
 The Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) is an independent foundation engaged in research on international environmental, energy, and resource management politics.
The Institute maintains a multi-disciplinary approach, with main emphasis on political science, economics, and international law.

Fridtjof Nansen Institute
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