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  December 6th, 2017 | Written by

USCG Official’s Keynote at Arctic Shipping Summit

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  • As Arctic ice recedes, a direct sea route from Europe to Asia is opening up along the coast of Russia.
  • US Coast Guard expects a Northwest Passage across North America to open up in the Arctic.
  • USCG is engaging Russia and Canada to develop joint proposals for Arctic ship routes and areas to be avoided.

Mike Emerson, director of marine transportation systems at the United States Coast Guard, presented a keynote address on arctic waterways management at the 11th Annual Arctic Shipping Summit in London on November 30.

The two-day conference brought together experts and stakeholders to discuss issues associated with Arctic operations, such as limited infrastructure and the harsh environment, and how regulations and technical advancements will impact commercial waterways management.

In his remarks, Emerson gave an overview of highlights from the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council from 2015-2017, and identified some emergent areas that warrant attention during chairmanships of the Scandinavian countries. He also discussed the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, which continues to demonstrate collaborative value, as evidenced by the success of the multi-national ARCTIC GUARDIAN Search and Rescue Exercise that was conducted off the coast of Iceland in September. Looking forward, Emerson said he anticipates increasing interest from countries outside the Arctic Circle to participate more fully in the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, as well as Arctic Council decision-making.

As Arctic ice recedes, a direct sea route from Europe to Asia is opening up along the coast of Russia, and Emerson said he expects the Northwest Passage across North America to follow suit.

“With more navigable waters, we can expect more shipping activities, and greater demands for waterways management,” Emerson said in his remarks. “The US Coast Guard therefore, is engaging peer agencies across both borders in developing joint proposals for ship routes and areas-to-be-avoided in waterways that we share with Russia and Canada. These efforts, and a fresh focus on charting, polar codes, and acquisition of ice-capable assets are immediate priorities for ensuring marine safety and security.”

Emerson concluded his remarks by forecasting the need for government and industry leadership in infrastructure investments to support increased Arctic shipping, along with resource development, fisheries, and tourism. Finally, he emphasized the need to reconcile waterways management with indigenous communities – an area the Coast Guard is actively addressing.

Conference attendees also heard from representatives from the IMO, Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada, the Norwegian Ice Service, and many other private shipping and environmental organizations. Other topics covered included Arctic regulations, safe navigation and communications, effective infrastructure, and crew hiring and training.