U.S. COAST GUARD
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter flies by the Coast Guard National Security Cutter Bertholf Sept. 14 in the Arctic Ocean.
The air crew from Air Station Los Angeles was attached to the ship as part of Operation Arctic Shield 2012. The
National Security Cutter Stratton will take part in the Arctic mission this summer.
the service. From 2008-2012, there was a 118 percent
increase in maritime transit through the Bering Strait. In
2012, 1 million tons of cargo was shipped through the
Arctic, and in 2013 there could be 1 million adventure
tourists visiting the region, the service said.
Climate change resulted in the melting of 4.57 million square miles of Arctic Sea ice between March and
September 2012. Alaska also has warmed more than
twice as rapidly as the rest of the United States in the last
60 years, and the polar ice cap today is 40 percent smaller than it was in 1979, according to the Coast Guard.
Oil exploration also is expected to increase as the
number of applications for permission to drill in the
Arctic has risen in the last year as companies look for
the 90 billion barrels, approximately 13 percent, of the
world’s undiscovered oil reserves.
Shell Oil Co. started drilling two exploratory wells
in the Arctic last year and will continue this summer.
“Recognizing that pollution response is significantly
more difficult in cold, ice and darkness, enhancing preventative measures is critical. Those engaging in offshore
commercial activity in the Arctic must also plan and prepare for emergency response in the face of a harsh environment, long transit distances for air and surface assets,
and limited response resources,” Rear Adm. Thomas P.
Ostebo, commander of Alaska’s District 17, said March 27
during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
oceans, atmosphere, fisheries and Coast Guard subcommittee field hearing in Anchorage, Alaska.
Ostebo told lawmakers the service is engaging industry and the private sector to address its responsibilities
for pollution prevention, preparedness and response.
The Coast Guard also is working with the Department
of Interior-led interagency working group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting
in Alaska to synchronize the efforts of federal agencies
overseeing the safe and responsible development of
Alaska’s onshore and offshore energy.
“While there are many challenges, the increasingly
open Arctic Ocean also presents unique opportunities,” Ostebo said during the field hearing.
The Coast Guard’s new 10-year plan for the Arctic
has three main objectives: improving awareness, modernizing governance and broadening partnerships.
Papp said the first step simply will involve better
understanding the Arctic operating environment, the
increase in activity and the risks it presents.
“This understanding will inform and enable effective Coast Guard presence to identify and address risks
as early as possible. In much of the Arctic, we simply
don’t know what is occurring,” the commandant said.
Part of this strategy will be using the National
Security Cutter (NSC) — the service currently has
three in the fleet and expects to have eight by 2020 —
as a mobile command center that will provide an effective offshore infrastructure base as well as a presence
during industry exploratory drilling. Last summer, the
flagship NSC, Bertholf, was used and this summer,
Stratton will take part in the Arctic mission.
The second part of the strategy will be done by helping agencies that work in the Arctic to strengthen
international legal regimes, safeguard the marine environment, preserve living marine resources and protect
U.S. sovereignty and sovereign rights, Papp said.