NEW LONDON, CONNECTICUT - Coast guard leaders from the U.S., Russia and other Arctic nations are meeting to strengthen cooperation in northern seas, where warming temperatures are opening new waterways to boat traffic.
An agreement setting up a new forum dedicated to security and stewardship of Arctic waters is expected to be signed Friday by leaders from eight countries' maritime agencies.
The leaders have gathered since Wednesday behind closed doors at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.
A total of eight countries — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the U.S. — are formally establishing the Arctic Coast Guard Forum. The organization will help implement agreements of the Arctic Council, which is comprised of the same member countries, but also make its own decisions and plans concerning Arctic operations.
"Much of the ACGF's work will focus on fostering the strong partnerships required to support safe, secure and environmentally-responsible maritime activity in the Arctic region,'' said Lisa Novak, a Coast Guard spokeswoman in Washington.
As the planet warms, waterways through the Northwest Passage above Canada and Russia have opened during summer months, funneling more ship traffic through the Bering Strait. The region also holds trillions of dollars' worth of oil and gas reserves, and many have warned of a new battleground for resources emerging in the 21st century.
The summit is taking place at the academy's Center for Arctic Study and Policy. Officials say the Arctic has been emerging as a popular topic of study at the academy, where cadets train and study along the Thames River in New London for careers as Coast Guard officers.