Answers to Common Questions on AMSA


shutterstock 29795479(A)  What is this study about?

--AMSA is an assessment of current and future Arctic marine activity

--the AMSA 2009 Report is a policy document of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum of the 8 Arctic states

--focus of AMSA is on Arctic marine safety & environmental protection.


(B)  What does AMSA mean by 'shipping'?

--Broadly defined as including many types of ships & vessels: icebreakers, container ships, tankers, bulk carriers, cruise ships, fishing vessels, offshore supply vessels, tug-barge combinations, government survey vessels, ferries, salvage ships, etc.

--naval ships that are combatants (submarines, surface warships) are not included in the assessment.....the Arctic Council does not have a mandate for naval security/military issues (only environmental protection and sustainable development).


shutterstock 119898433(C)  What are the major drivers of current & future Arctic marine activity?

--Natural resource development.....oil, gas & hard minerals such as zinc & nickel...is the primary driver of ship traffic in the Arctic

--the global tourism industry has also come to the Arctic via summer cruise ship voyages

--climate change in the form of Arctic sea ice retreat is a factor in that the continuing decrease in extent and thickness of sea ice will allow for potentially longer seasons of navigation.



(D)  What was the AMSA database important to the study and why was it designed for 2004?

--AMSA needed a baseline year of data on the numbers of ships operating in Arctic Ocean.....an estimate of the amount of traffic for a given year.....total emissions & discharges could be derived from such a database

--AMSA began in the late summer 2005 and the electronic survey sent to the Arctic states requested 2004 calendar year data.....some more recent ship traffic is included in the report.



(E)  How many ships operated in the Arctic Ocean during 2004?

--an estimated 6,000 individual vessels operated in the Arctic region (including ships along the North Pacific Great Circle Route through the Aleutian Islands)

--slightly less than 50% of the total were fishing vessels

--the next largest category was bulk carriers representing 20 % of the total

--from 1977-2008 there have been 77 voyages to the North Pole by surface ships/icebreakers for science and tourism.



shutterstock 258376334(F)  What is the legal framework or agreement that influences governance of the Arctic Ocean?

--UNCLOS, the UN Law of the Sea Convention, is the framework agreement that provides the general rules to be adhered to by all Arctic coastal states.

--the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the appropriate UN body that that focuses on marine safety and environmental protection measures for the global maritime industry.



(G)  What is the main impact of the retreat of Arctic sea ice?

--the decreases in Arctic sea ice thickness and extent allow for plausible increases in the seasons of navigation; overall there is greater marine access throughout the Arctic Ocean during the past five decades.



(H)  What are the main concerns outlined in AMSA for the future of Arctic marine operations?

--the lack of infrastructure in the Arctic Ocean is a serious constraint to increased traffic; the lack of communications (radio and satellite), charts, adequate search & rescue response, environmental response, aids to navigation, salvage, marine traffic systems, and more, is a fundamental challenge for the Arctic states and for industry

--voluntary measures are in force by IMO, but future mandatory rules & regulations will be necessary; non-uniformity of shipping rules in the Arctic Ocean is of concern.

--closer monitoring of shipping traffic will be required in the future.



(I)  What will be the future of trans-Arctic navigation, or voyages from Pacific to Atlantic and vice versa?

--the Arctic sea ice cover will be present in winter, spring and autumn presenting a challenge to all future traffic

--AMSA did not study in depth the potential for use of any of the options for trans-Arctic navigation: Northern Sea Route, Northwest Passage and central Arctic Ocean

--there are many challenges facing trans-Arctic shipping, mainly the lack of rigorous economic analyses of potential routes that would be ice-free for only short periods in summer; other global social, environmental, economic factors are hugely influential.



(J)  What regions of the Arctic are experiencing high concentrations of ship traffic?

--Coastal Norway and Northwest Russia (Barents and Pechora seas); the North Pacific Great Circle Route traffic near the Aleutians Islands; cruise ship traffic off the east and west coasts of Greenland.


(K)  What is the most significant environmental concern identified by AMSA?

--release of oil into the Arctic marine environment (accidental release or illegal discharge) is the most significant threat from Arctic shipping.