Vessel traffic in the Arctic is growing rapidly and maritime stakeholders are taking a proac- tive approach on how to address this challenge over the next decade.
In March, the U.S. Coast Guard held the first Arctic
Coast Guard Forum meeting in Washington that
brought together eight nations with shared maritime
interests in the region. The forum’s initial objective was
to establish an organizational framework for the coast
guard agencies of these Arctic states.
“It is important that the forum distinguish itself by the
competencies of its member organizations. With that in
mind, the forum will focus on fostering safe, secure and
environmentally responsible maritime activity in the
Arctic,” said CAPT Geoff Gagnier, the Coast Guard’s
deputy commandant of operations.
Member countries agreed that the forum should be
an operationally focused, consensus-based organization. Consensus was achieved on a foundational
governing document called a Terms of Reference. It
also was proposed that Secretariat and Combined
Operations Working Groups be established to begin
the development of the organizational framework,
The Secretariat Working Group
— with the United States serving as
chair in conjunction with its Arctic
Council chairmanship — will plan a
Heads of Coast Guard Summit at the
U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s Center
for Arctic Study and Policy this fall.
Attendees will include Canada,
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway,
Sweden, the Russian Federation and
During his State of the Coast
Guard Address in February, Com-
mandant ADM Paul F. Zukunft
addressed the importance of the ser-
vice’s role in the Arctic.
“Unimpeded access and sustained presence while
operating in the Arctic are vital to meet the United
States Arctic Strategy. There is a new ocean opening and
Coast Guard authorities mandate our presence wherever U.S. national interests require people and ships to
operate,” he said.
Over the last 10 years, Arctic operations have become a higher priority for the Coast Guard. The annual Operation Arctic Shield, which takes place during
the summer, has been examining what additional
resources may be needed in the area of operations.
Helen Brohl, the executive director of the U.S. Committee on the Marine Transportation System, said commercial
shipping activity in the Arctic is primarily regional, centered on the transport of natural resources from the area,
and the delivery of general cargo and supplies to communities and natural resource extraction facilities.
“With diminished ice coverage, trans-Arctic routes
are now considered to reduce transit distance between
Europe and Asia. … Shorter routes could save companies nearly 40 percent in shipping costs,” she said.
Congress directed the committee, under the U.S. Coast
Guard Authorization Act of 2010, to coordinate domestic
transportation policies in the U.S. Arctic necessary to
Dramatic increase in commercial shipping is expected in the region
By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Special Correspondent
Staying One Step Ahead
Commercial shipping in the Arctic is expected to continue to
increase, and the Coast Guard and maritime community are taking action to be prepared for it.
; By 2025, vessel transits in the Arctic could increase 500 percent compared with baseline 2013 figures.
; Arctic operations have become a higher priority for the Coast
Guard over the past 10 years.
; One expert said there is a need for more robust marine transportation system information and response infrastructure in the region.