The Arctic is undergoing extraordinary transformations early in the 21st century. Natural resource development, governance challenges, climate change and marine infrastructure issues are influencing current and future marine uses of the Arctic. Increased economic activity together with the current retreat of Arctic sea ice presents several plausible futures for the Arctic's regional seas, the Northern Sea Route, the Northwest Passage, and the central Arctic Ocean. Continued sea ice reductions will likely lengthen the navigation season in all regions and increase marine access to the Arctic's natural resources.'
These changes represent both a challenge and an opportunity for governments and local Arctic communities. Of key significance are the effects of expanded marine activities on the cultures and well-being of Arctic populations, especially indigenous residents whose traditional way of life has been partially protected in the past by the very nature of the remote and extreme Arctic environment in which they live.
The Arctic Council, recognizing these critical changes and issues, at the November 2004 Ministerial meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, called for the Council's Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) working group to "conduct a comprehensive Arctic marine shipping assessment as outlined under the Arctic Marine Strategic Plan (AMSP) under the guidance of Canada, Finland and the United States as lead countries and in collaboration with the Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR) working group and the Permanent Participants as relevant." The Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment, or The AMSA 2009 Report, was approved at the 2009 Ministerial meeting in Tromsø.
Download the AMSA report (PDF)
Data and maps from AMSA report (external link)
The AMSA Recommendations
The focus of the AMSA is marine safety and marine environmental protection, which is consistent with the Arctic Council’s mandates of environmental protection and sustainable development. Based on the findings of the AMSA, recommendations were developed to provide a guide for future action by the Arctic Council, Arctic states and many others. The AMSA recommendations are presented under three broad, inter-related themes that are fundamental to understanding the AMSA: Enhancing Arctic Marine Safety, Protecting Arctic People and the Environment, and Building Arctic Marine Infrastructure. It is recognized that implementation of these recommendations could come from the Arctic states, industry and/or public-private partnerships.
I. Enhancing Arctic Marine Safety
A. Linking with International Organizations: That the Arctic states decide to, on a case by case basis, identify areas of common interest and develop unified positions and approaches with respect to international organizations such as: the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Maritime Satellite Organization (IMSO) to advance the safety of Arctic marine shipping; and encourage meetings, as appropriate, of member state national maritime safety organizations to coordinate, harmonize and enhance the implementation of the Arctic maritime regulatory framework.
B. IMO Measures for Arctic Shipping: That the Arctic states, in recognition of the unique environmental and navigational conditions in the Arctic, decide to cooperatively support efforts at the International Maritime Organization to strengthen, harmonize and regularly update international standards for vessels operating in the Arctic. These efforts include: ---Support the updating and the mandatory application of relevant parts of the Guidelines for Ships Operating in Arctic Ice-covered Waters (Arctic Guidelines); and, ---Drawing from IMO instruments, in particular the Arctic Guidelines, augment global IMO ship safety and pollution prevention conventions with specific mandatory requirements or other provisions for ship construction, design, equipment, crewing, training and operations, aimed at safety and protection of the Arctic environment. The Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment Recommendations
C. Uniformity of Arctic Shipping Governance: That the Arctic states should explore the possible harmonization of Arctic marine shipping regulatory regimes within their own jurisdiction and uniform Arctic safety and environmental protection regulatory regimes, consistent with UNCLOS, that could provide a basis for protection measures in regions of the central Arctic Ocean beyond coastal state jurisdiction for consideration by the IMO.
D. Strengthening Passenger Ship Safety in Arctic Waters: That the Arctic states should support the application of the IMO’s Enhanced Contingency Planning Guidance for Passenger Ships Operating in Areas Remote from SAR Facilities, given the extreme challenges associated with rescue operations in the remote and cold Arctic region; and strongly encourage cruise ship operators to develop, implement and share their own best practices for operating in such conditions, including consideration of measures such as timing voyages so that other ships are within rescue distance in case of emergency.
E. Arctic Search and Rescue (SAR) Instrument: That the Arctic states decide to support developing and implementing a comprehensive, multi-national Arctic Search and Rescue (SAR) instrument, including aeronautical and maritime SAR, among the eight Arctic nations and, if appropriate, with other interested parties in recognition of the remoteness and limited resources in the region.
II. Protecting Arctic People and the Environment
A. Survey of Arctic Indigenous Marine Use: That the Arctic states should consider conducting surveys on Arctic marine use by indigenous communities where gaps are identified to collect information for establishing up-to-date baseline data to assess the impacts from Arctic shipping activities.
B. Engagement with Arctic Communities: That the Arctic states decide to determine if effective communication mechanisms exist to ensure engagement of their Arctic coastal communities and, where there are none, to develop their own mechanisms to engage and coordinate with the shipping industry, relevant economic activities and Arctic communities (in particular during the planning phase of a new marine activity) to increase benefits and help reduce the impacts from shipping.
C. Areas of Heightened Ecological and Cultural Significance: That the Arctic states should identify areas of heightened ecological and cultural significance in light of changing climate conditions and increasing multiple marine use and, where appropriate, should encourage implementation of measures to protect these areas from the impacts of Arctic marine shipping, in coordination with all stakeholders and consistent with international law.
D. Specially Designated Arctic Marine Areas: That the Arctic states should, taking into account the special characteristics of the Arctic marine environment, explore the need for internationally designated areas for the purpose of environmental protection in regions of the Arctic Ocean. This could be done through the use of appropriate tools, such as “Special Areas” or Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA) designation through the IMO and consistent with the existing international legal framework in the Arctic.
E. Protection from Invasive Species: That the Arctic states should consider ratification of the IMO International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments, as soon as practical. Arctic states should also assess the risk of introducing invasive species through ballast water and other means so that adequate prevention measures can be implemented in waters under their jurisdiction.
F. Oil Spill Prevention: That the Arctic states decide to enhance the mutual cooperation in the field of oil spill prevention and, in collaboration with industry, support research and technology transfer to prevent release of oil into Arctic waters, since prevention of oil spills is the highest priority in the Arctic for environmental protection.
G. Addressing Impacts on Marine Mammals: That the Arctic states decide to engage with relevant international organizations to further assess the effects on marine mammals due to ship noise, disturbance and strikes in Arctic waters; and consider, where needed, to work with the IMO in developing and implementing mitigation strategies.
H. Reducing Air Emissions: That the Arctic states decide to support the development of improved practices and innovative technologies for ships in port and at sea to help reduce current and future emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulfur Oxides (SOx) and Particulate Matter (PM), taking into account the relevant IMO regulations.
III. Building the Arctic Marine Infrastructure
A. Addressing the Infrastructure Deficit: That the Arctic states should recognize that improvements in Arctic marine infrastructure are needed to enhance safety and environmental protection in support of sustainable development. Examples of infrastructure where critical improvements are needed include: ice navigation training; navigational charts; communications systems; port services, including reception facilities for ship-generated waste; accurate and timely ice information (ice centers); places of refuge; and icebreakers to assist in response.
B. Arctic Marine Traffic System: That the Arctic states should support continued development of a comprehensive Arctic marine traffic awareness system to improve monitoring and tracking of marine activity, to enhance data sharing in near real-time, and to augment vessel management service in order to reduce the risk of incidents, facilitate response and provide awareness of potential user conflict. The Arctic states should encourage shipping companies to cooperate in the improvement and development of national monitoring systems.
C. Circumpolar Environmental Response Capacity: That the Arctic states decide to continue to develop circumpolar environmental pollution response capabilities that are critical to protecting the unique Arctic ecosystem. This can be accomplished, for example, through circumpolar cooperation and agreement(s), as well as regional bilateral capacity agreements.
D. Investing in Hydrographic, Meteorological and Oceanographic Data: That the Arctic states should significantly improve, where appropriate, the level of and access to data and information in support of safe navigation and voyage planning in Arctic waters. This would entail increased efforts for: hydrographic surveys to bring Arctic navigation charts up to a level acceptable to support current and future safe navigation; and systems to support realtime acquisition, analysis and transfer of meteorological, oceanographic, sea ice and iceberg information.