There is a growing need to address marine transportation issues in the Arctic region as resource development grows as part of the changing climate conditions in the region.
In order to establish a safe, secure and reliable Marine Transportation System (MTS) in the Arctic, the U.S. must protect valuable Arctic coastal and ocean resources, maintain existing norms of native communities integral to their cultural identity and reduce the risk of oil spills, air emissions and other potential problems that could negatively impact the environment and coastal communities.
“The Arctic is a high priority of this administration,” said Helen Brohl, director, U.S. Committee on the Marine Transportation System (CMTS), Washington, D.C. “Congress in 2010 directed the U.S. Coast Guard as part of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 to coordinate the establishment of domestic transportation policies in the Arctic.”
CMTS was tasked with putting together an Arctic transportation policy report for Congress, which was recently delivered to President Obama.
The report, “U.S. Arctic Marine Transportation System: Overview and Priorities for Action 2013,” examines the risks and opportunities for commerce and economic growth in the Arctic region. It also looks at security of U.S. maritime domain, indigenous peoples and their cultures, and marine resource management, particularly along the Alaskan coast.
“It doesn’t suggest that new policies should be made,” said Brohl, “but it does make some recommendations.”
Those recommendations include relying on CMTS Arctic MTS coordination, joining the Law of the Sea Convention, and implementing the U.S. Arctic MTS improvement plan and its priorities and timeframes.
The overall goal of the report is to study the ability of the U.S. to meet the safety, security, and environmental protection needs of present and future Arctic stakeholders and activities.
In 2009, the Arctic Council, comprised of the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden, recognized links among marine transportation, environmental protection, and sustainable Arctic development.
The council produced a report, “Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment” (AMSA), that highlighted the lack of marine infrastructure available in the region and made a number of recommendations to enhance Arctic marine transportation safety, protect the environment and those who live in the Arctic, and build Arctic marine infrastructure.
CMTS studied the AMSA report and other international agreements while putting its report together for Congress.
“Changing conditions in the Arctic present the United States with a rare opportunity to comprehensively and holistically develop an Arctic MTS in order to sustainably manage the Arctic,” the report said.
The complete report can be found at http://www.cmts.gov/downloads/CMTS U S Arctic MTS Report 07-30-13.pdf.