Norway and Arctic Marine Shipping

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Map: NPI. Front photo: Jo Jorem Aarseth.

By Associate Professor PhD Ingvild U. Jakobsen and Professor Dr. juris Tore Henriksen, Faculty of Law, UiT The Arctic University of Norway

The Arctic is particularly affected by climate change with higher temperatures. One of the consequences of the rise in temperatures is the decrease the sea ice both in extent and in thickness. This will have regional and global impacts, on climate and the marine species and ecosystems.

In this study the focus will be on the opportunities provided by the decrease of sea ice through increased access to previously closed areas for exploitation of natural resources (living and non-living) and shipping (tourism, transport and military activities).

The maritime activities in the Arctic may become more extensive in the future. Projections that the two trans-Arctic sea routes (Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route) would be navigable for a longer period of the year at the end of the century has been revised.

The Arctic Oceans and adjacent seas will not be completely without sea ice as there still will be sea ice during winter season and its extension may vary. Together with other factors such as a harsh climate, lack of infrastructure and a particular vulnerable nature there will be risks linked to future maritime Arctic shipping.

The overall question to be addressed in this paper is what legal opportunities Norway has as a coastal State and a port State to promote the safety of and environmental protection in (international) Arctic marine shipping.

The evaluation includes both the measures Norway may take unilaterally under international law and the measures that must be based in multilateral instruments such as those adopted through the International Maritime Organization. The role as port State will be highlighted, as this probably will be the most realistic way Norway may influence Arctic shipping.

The study will not include any assessment of whether these opportunities in fact are employed by Norway. This will be the focus of a separate report to follow.

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