Report Details Next Steps in Arctic Shipping Policies

As the climate warms and global commerce grows, the prospect of an arctic shipping route becomes more tangible.  A new report, “Considering a Roadmap Forward: The Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment,” the result of a collaboration between Dartmouth College, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the University of the Arctic, offers policymakers worldwide with guidance for navigating the political and practical ramifications of shipping in the Arctic.

Published and edited by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the report  details a workshop held at UAF in October 2009 as part of the University of the Arctic’s Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy, co-chaired by former U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Yalowitz, Director of Dartmouth's Dickey Center for International Understanding, and Dr. Michael Sfraga, head of the University of Alaska Geography Program and University of Alaska Fairbanks vice chancellor for students.

“The future of shipping in the Arctic is one of the most important issues resulting from climate change in the North,” said  Yalowitz. "The conference and the report are major achievements for promoting an interdisciplinary examination of major Arctic issues and for recommending options to policy makers. Dartmouth College is very pleased to partner with the University of Alaska Fairbanks in this very worthwhile activity under the University of the Arctic."

The workshop drew nearly 70 experts from Canada, China, Denmark, Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States to examine the 17 recommendations outlined in the Arctic Council’s 2009 Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment. The three-day October 2009 workshop focused on three themes: enhancing arctic marine safety, protecting arctic people and the environment, and building the arctic marine infrastructure.

“The workshop report takes the key AMSA recommendations and provides to the arctic community a list of action items to consider as we collectively navigate a future of change,” said Sfraga, who presented the report at an Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy workshop in Rovaniemi, Finland, last week.

The 24-page report offers dozens of proposed actions, many of which will require public or private funding.  Among the highest-priority policy issues are:

    • - A mandatory International Maritime Organization Polar Code.
    • - Full tracking and monitoring of arctic commercial ships.
    • - An arctic search and rescue agreement (underway).
    • - Surveys of indigenous marine use.
    • - A circumpolar response capacity agreement among the arctic states.
    • - Implementation of an arctic observing network to support science and marine operations.

    "The report highlights the ongoing need to couple state-of-the-art climate and environmental science with the social sciences to provide policy makers with timely and actionable information on which to reach policies that ensure a sustainable future for the Arctic," said Ross Virginia, Professor and Director of the Dickey Center Institute of Arctic Studies at Dartmouth. "This report on the future of shipping in the Arctic is a case study for approaching many other environmental problems in the North."

     Considering a Roadmap Forward: The Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment

    Contact: Latarsha Gatlin, 603-646-3274


    Kenneth S. Yalowitz at 603-646-2023 or

    Mike Sfraga at 907-474-7317 or


    The Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment

    University of the Arctic’s Institute for Applied Circumpolar Policy

    University of Alaska blog