Arctic shipping routes

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Map of the Arctic region showing the bathymetry and the Northeast Passage, the Northern Sea Route within it, and the Northwest Passage.[1]

Arctic shipping routes are the maritime paths used by vessels to navigate through parts or the entirety of the Arctic. There are three main routes that connect the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans: the Northeast Passage, the Northwest Passage, and the Transpolar Sea Route.[2] In addition, two other significant routes exist: the Northern Sea Route, and the Arctic Bridge.[1][2]

To connect the Atlantic with the Pacific, the Northwest Passage goes along the Northern Canadian and Alaskan coasts, the Northeast Passage follows the Russian and Norwegian coasts, and the Transpolar Sea Route crosses the Arctic through the North Pole.[2]

The Arctic Bridge is an internal Arctic route linking Russia to Canada, and the Northern Sea Route trails the Russian coast from the Bering Strait to the East, to the Kara Sea to the West.[2]

The main difference between the NSR and the NEP is that the latter comprises the Barents Sea and provides access to the port of Murmansk, the largest Russian Arctic port, and to the Atlantic. Given that the NSR constitutes the majority of the NEP, some sources use the terms NSR and NEP interchangeably.[3]

Navigability of sea routes

Sea ice extent in March 2013 (left) and September 2013 (right), illustrating the respective monthly averages during the winter maximum and summer minimum extents. The magenta lines indicate the median ice extents in March and September, respectively, during the period 1981-2010.

The NWP encounters thick multiyear ice, complex straits, and pingos that make navigation especially challenging. The eastern routes Northeast Passage and Northern Sea Route have experienced a higher level of activity compared to the Northwest Passage.[2][3]

The NEP is relatively easier owing to lower overall ice extent and open water in the Barents Sea. Unlike similar latitudes in Alaska or in Canada, this area remains ice-free due to currents of warm water from the Gulf Stream, feeding into the North Atlantic. For both the NSR and NEP, in summer months the sea ice recedes more quickly compared to the NWP area. This characteristic has become more notable since the early 2000s due to successive low-records of ice age, thickness and extension.[3]

The Transpolar Sea Route remains a mostly unused route as ships going through it must traverse a permanent sea ice sheet, requiring advanced ice breaking capabilities.

Governance

Further information: Arctic cooperation and politics

The governance of the NEP has developed considerably in the late 20th century and early 21st century. The main sources of governance are the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Arctic Council (AC), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the domestic legislation of the Arctic countries. In combination, they cover territorial claims, economic exploitation, technical shipping requirements, environmental protection, and search and rescue responsibilities.[3]

Search and rescue

In 2011 the Arctic countries, organized through the Arctic Council, signed the first binding circumpolar treaty, the Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic. With it they officially established the areas of responsibility of each coastal country,[3]

Further reading

  • Østreng, Willy; Eger, Karl Magnus; Fløistad, Brit; Jørgensen-Dahl, Arnfinn; Lothe, Lars; Mejlænder-Larsen, Morten; Wergeland, Tor (2013). Shipping in Arctic Waters: A Comparison of the Northeast, Northwest and Trans Polar Passages. Springer. ISBN 978-3642167898. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-16790-4. 
  • Brigham, L.; McCalla, R.; Cunningham, E.; Barr, W.; VanderZwaag, D.; Chircop, A.; Santos-Pedro, V.M.; MacDonald, R.; Harder, S.; Ellis, B.; Snyder, J.; Huntington, H.; Skjoldal, H.; Gold, M.; Williams, M.; Wojhan, T.; Williams, M.; Falkingham, J. (2009). Brigham, Lawson; Santos-Pedro, V.M.; Juurmaa, K., eds. Arctic marine shipping assessment (PDF). Norway: Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME), Arctic Council. 

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Brigham, L.; McCalla, R.; Cunningham, E.; Barr, W.; VanderZwaag, D.; Chircop, A.; Santos-Pedro, V.M.; MacDonald, R.; Harder, S.; Ellis, B.; Snyder, J.; Huntington, H.; Skjoldal, H.; Gold, M.; Williams, M.; Wojhan, T.; Williams, M.; Falkingham, J. (2009). Brigham, Lawson; Santos-Pedro, V.M.; Juurmaa, K., eds. Arctic marine shipping assessment (AMSA) (PDF). Norway: Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME), Arctic Council. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 1, 2014. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Østreng, Willy; Eger, Karl Magnus; Fløistad, Brit; Jørgensen-Dahl, Arnfinn; Lothe, Lars; Mejlænder-Larsen, Morten; Wergeland, Tor (2013). Shipping in Arctic Waters: A Comparison of the Northeast, Northwest and Trans Polar Passages. Springer. ISBN 978-3642167898. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-16790-4. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Buixadé Farré, Albert; Stephenson, Scott R.; Chen, Linling; Czub, Michael; Dai, Ying; Demchev, Denis; Efimov, Yaroslav; Graczyk, Piotr; Grythe, Henrik; Keil, Kathrin; Kivekäs, Niku; Kumar, Naresh; Liu, Nengye; Matelenok, Igor; Myksvoll, Mari; O'Leary, Derek; Olsen, Julia; Pavithran .A.P., Sachin; Petersen, Edward; Raspotnik, Andreas; Ryzhov, Ivan; Solski, Jan; Suo, Lingling; Troein, Caroline; Valeeva, Vilena; van Rijckevorsel, Jaap; Wighting, Jonathan (October 16, 2014). "Commercial Arctic shipping through the Northeast Passage: Routes, resources, governance, technology, and infrastructure". Polar Geography. Taylor & Francis. doi:10.1080/1088937X.2014.965769. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 5, 2015. Retrieved October 18, 2014. 

External links