News / Economy

Expanding Arctic Ocean to Get Its Own Shipping Rules

Polar Star, the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, completes ice drills in the Arctic in this July 3, 2013 handout photo.
Polar Star, the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, completes ice drills in the Arctic in this July 3, 2013 handout photo.
Reuters
New shipping rules are soon to be agreed upon for the Arctic, where summer sea ice has shrunk by about two-thirds over three decades, opening a new ocean with vast natural resources.

Maritime nations are close to a landmark deal on the Polar Code, aimed to improve safety, lead to lower insurance premiums and help the rise of traffic, industry insiders said.

About a tenth of the world's undiscovered oil and close to a third of its undiscovered gas is thought to lie under Arctic waters. The Northern Sea Route along Russia's edge can reduce the sailing distance between Asian ports and Northern Europe by 40 percent.

A draft of the code could be finalized by members of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) this week and go into force by 2016, ending years of delays, Sturla Henriksen, the director general of Norwegian Shipowners' Association said.

“There are no international conventions which regulate Arctic shipping operations, so in principle the same rules apply for sunny sailing in the Mediterranean as for the Arctic,” Henriksen told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference.

“It's a cold place, it has a hostile climate, it's enshrouded in darkness half of the year, weather is violent and extreme, distances are vast, the area is remote from large population centers, it's sparsely populated and it's far from basic infrastructure,” Henriksen added.

Only 71 ships crossed the Northern Sea Route last year, compared to the 18,000 handled by the Suez Canal, but about a 1,000 vessels traveled into the high Arctic, with much of the growth coming from oil and gas activity, particularly in Russia.

The Polar Code will set stringent rules on pollution, safety of life, training, certification and watch keeping. It will prescribe ship properties including required ice class and set uniform rules for all vessels in all of the polar countries.

Under the current rules, any vessel traveling into the high Arctic - defined as above 72 degrees north - had to agree on a separate policy with its insurer with unique conditions negotiated for each vessel and each journey.

“The Polar Code is a very good step forward, we endorse it but it is just a step forward, we can't stop now,” said Stein Are Hansen, the assistant director of the Norwegian Hull Club, a mutual marine insurance firm.

“Any risk mitigation measures that produce fewer insurance claims will of course on average make insurance prices go down,” Hansen said, adding that better search and rescue, improved maps and more icebreakers were still needed.

If the draft is approved this week, it could get a final approval before the end of the year and go into force 18 to 24 months later.

The code does not deal with the problem of ballast water discharge, which often introduces non native species to a region, and continues to allow vessels to use heavy fuel oil, a risk as the fuel would contaminate waters in case of an accident.

“We are concerned that there are important aspects that the Polar Code doesn't address,” Nina Jensen, the head of environmental group WWF's Norwegian branch said.

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7735
JPY
USD
107.03
GBP
USD
0.6155
CAD
USD
1.1011
INR
USD
60.954

Rates may not be current.