Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Arctic Shipping Must Allow Free Passage for All, World Shipping Body Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 19 – The London-based International Chamber of Shipping, which brings together more than 80 percent of the world’s merchant ships, says that Arctic powers must not discriminate against ships registered with non-Arctic states but rather allow free passage for all.

            The ICS says it has been compelled to issue this statement both because of the lengthening of shipping season in the Arctic as a result of global warming and because some of the Arctic powers – Russia is not named but is certainly among them – have been talking about restrictive measures.
            (The full ICS statement is available at It is described in an ICS press release available at, and it is discussed by Trude Petterson of “Barents Observer” at
            Simon Bennett, the ICS external relations director, told “Barents Observer” that “as the volume of Arctic shipping gradually increases, there is a growing awareness about the need for a high degree of care when ships navigate Arctic waters.”
            But he continued, “the proper forum for addressing these concerns is the International Martime Organization which is currently developing a Polar Code that is expected to be mandatory;” and he stressed that “it is most important that Arctic nations avoid unilateral measures that might cut across IMO Conventions or the provisions of UNCLOS,” SOLAS, and MARPOL.
            Benett added that “if frequent and reliable international shipping services are to be provided between Arctic ports and the rest of the world, or natural resources in the region are to be developed in a manner that reconciles the need for both environmental and economic sustainably, this will require the provision of maritime services that are competitive and cost efficient.”
            The ICS statement could create problems for two Arctic powers, the Russian Federation which has already advanced a far more assertive approach to the region and the United States which has not ratified the Law of the Sea Treaty and thus is not entitled to a seat at the table where many of these Arctic issues are likely to be thrashed out in the coming months.

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