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Arctic Shipping Guidelines: From Voluntary to Mandatory Tool for Environmental Protection and Navigation Safety?

The preoccupation with protecting the Polar marine environment has added new dimensions to the concept of maritime safety. Among the recent global, regulatory initiatives are the "Guidelines for Ships Operating in Arctic Ice-covered Waters", adopted by the International Maritime Organization in 2002. They aim to provide guidance for the purpose of regulating international shipping in ice-covered waters, with special consideration for the risks faced by ships operating in the Arctic Ocean.

The overall objective of this research project is to explore the various maritime, geopolitical and legal issues raised by the introduction of these regulations. Key elements and structure of the Guidelines are analysed, as well as the roles of governments, the IMO and classification societies in the lawmaking process. The possible relevance for the Guidelines to be implemented for Antarctic navigation is also discussed.

A major part of the research aims to analyse the shortfalls of the current arrangement and their contribution to maritime safety in a non-binding form. If the regulations prove to have little legal and practical impact as recommendatory provisions only, what will be the most appropriate avenue for adopting a compulsory regime, and moreover, which foreseeable repercussions are then likely within the special jurisdictional context of the Arctic region?

Project team:
   Øystein Jensen
   Davor Vidas (project leader)

Project period: 2006-2007


Jensen, Øystein, 'Arctic Shipping Guidelines: Towards a Legal Regime for Navigation Safety and Environmental Protection?'. Polar Record, Vol 44, No 2, 2008, pp. 107-114.

Jensen, Øystein, The IMO Guidelines for Ships Operating in Arctic Ice-Covered Waters: From Voluntary to Mandatory Tool for Navigation Safety and Environmental Protection? FNI Report 2/2007. Lysaker, FNI, 2007, 32 p.
 Related focal points of research:

   Law of the Sea and marine affairs
   Arctic and Russian politics

Project funding:

   Fridtjof Nansen Institute

Recent relevant FNI News:

   Arctic Shipping: Transit Still Far off, but Legal Regime Needs Strengthening (13.04.07)

Recent media coverage:

'On the rocks without ice: Shipping in the Arctic', Arctic Bulletin, No 2, May 2008, pp. 18-19.

'Et nytt hav smelter fram' ('A New Ocean Emerges as Ice Melts'), Nordlys, 19 June 2007. In Norwegian.

'Nytt hav krever nytt globalt lovverk' ('A New Ocean Requires New Global Legislation'), WWF News, 10 April 2007. In Norwegian.

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