Centre for International Law

Past Event – Challenges for Arctic Marine Transport and the Northern Sea Route

23 February 2017 | CIL Seminar Series


Profound changes in Arctic sea ice are providing greater marine access and potentially longer seasons of navigation. However, the primary driver of Arctic marine transport early in the 21st century is Arctic natural resource development. This was a key finding of the Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment released in 2009. No other region illustrates this situation more than the Russian maritime Arctic, its direct ties to natural resource development and the need for safe, reliable and effective marine transport systems. The building of the new port of Sabatta on the Yamal Peninsula indicates the importance of linking the Russian Arctic, in this case primarily with liquefied natural gas, to global markets. Uncertainties remain in fully utilizing Russia’s Northern Sea Route: determining the length of the navigation season; building and employing an effective icebreaker fleet; investing in new infrastructure such as ports, salvage, response (search & rescue and environmental response), communications and aids to navigation; implementing and enforcing the International Maritime Organization’s Polar Code; and understanding role of marine insurance and risk management for sailing in polar waters. A number of factors are important to the future of circumpolar marine navigation: closing the Arctic infrastructure gap throughout the region; enhancing Arctic ship monitoring and surveillance; developing the roles of the Arctic Coast Guard Forum; and designating measures such marine protected areas in the central Arctic Ocean and along coastal routes. All of these initiatives will require historic levels of cooperation among the Arctic states, non-Arctic states and the global maritime industry.


Download Dr Brigham’s presentation in PDF format

About the Speaker

Dr Lawson W. BRIGHAM is Distinguished Fellow and Faculty at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fellow at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s Center for Arctic Studies and Policy, and Senior Fellow at the Institute of the North in Anchorage. He is a U.S. Coast Guard Academy (BS) graduate and a U.S. Naval War College distinguished graduate and holds graduate degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (MS) and Cambridge University (MPhil & PhD). A career U.S. Coast Guard officer, Dr Brigham commanded four Coast Guard ships, including the icebreaker Polar Sea on Arctic and Antarctic expeditions. During 2004–09 he was chair of the Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment and Vice Chair of the Council’s working group on Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment. Dr Brigham has been a research fellow at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a faculty member of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School, and Alaska Director of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. He was also a 2008 signer of the American Geographical Society’s Flier’s and Explorer’s Globe, the Society’s historic globe of exploration, in recognition of Polar Sea’s 1994 voyages becoming the first ship in history to reach the extreme ends of the global ocean. Dr Brigham was elected to the Norwegian Scientific Academy for Polar Research and was awarded the Polar Medal by the American Polar Society. His research interests focus on the Russian maritime Arctic, Arctic climate change, polar marine transportation and polar geopolitics.

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