PURPOSE: The workshop will focus on mechanisms that will advance a safe and reliable marine shipping regime in the Arctic that is environmentally and culturally sensitive, meets the needs of Northern communities, and supports economic development in Canada’s North.
BACKGROUND: Canada’s Arctic is experiencing unprecedented change. Climate change is reshaping the environmental, social, cultural, geopolitical, and economic landscape in the Arctic. Accompanying these changes is increasing attention to, and use of, the Arctic Ocean including the NW Passage as a means for shipping (whether for destination shipping, transarctic, for tourism or otherwise). It is expected that this interest and use of the passageway will only continue to increase going into the future.
To that end, the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada, and the Canadian Hydrographic Service are advancing the development of Northern Low-Impact Shipping Corridors in the Canadian Arctic, with funding provided under the Government of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan. Working with Indigenous partners, provincial-territorial governments, other federal departments, and industry partners, the initiative aims to identify a government framework and priority areas to inform investment in infrastructure, programs, and services to ensure safer marine navigation while respecting the environment and its ecological and cultural significance.
The broader Arctic and international sphere has also begun to address the need to find mechanism for safe Arctic navigation. Efforts and actions include the IMO (Polar Code) and the Arctic Council’s agreements for SAR and EPPR. Despite these efforts, there remains much greater cooperative opportunity to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of the North American Arctic Seaway.
Recognizing this, a growing number of lawmakers in the United States and industry partners, are currently championing the creation of a binational Arctic Seaway Authority, based on the existing model of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Included in its aims to ensure safety, security, and reliability, the Mission Council on Arctic Shipping seeks to create a bi-national (or international) cooperation that would include vessel routing, tracking, and monitoring as well as a coordinated EPPR and SAR program to help prevent and respond to emergencies, and to provide local response capabilities. The Mission Council on Arctic Shipping is also looking towards building a tariff-based system to help contribute to much needed capital investment in marine safety, aids to navigation, spill prevention and response, and ports of refuge’.