Friday, October 2, 2009

Canadians Seek To Clarify Their Claim To Arctic Route

Global Warming Presents Opportunities and Conflict
Shipping News Feature

CANADA – A row is brewing over the Northern sea route cleared recently when two German cargo ships transited with the assistance of Russian icebreakers through the Arctic waters opening up a possible new trade route.

Russia has the fleet of icebreaking ships, including some nuclear powered ones,to assist convoys of vessels that wish to use the sea passage which enables a faster, shorter route between Eastern Asia and Western Europe. The fact that they are prepared to do this strengthens the nations claim to sovereignty over the area. Not only will the service doubtless prove extremely profitable for the escort vessels, considering the savings that will be made in time and overheads by the ship owners, but by the act of acceptance participating countries will be adjudged by the Russians as tacit acceptance that they control the area.

For their part the Canadians will doubtless claim their rights to the area concerned. The nation currently uses federal funds to supply a patrol group in the area which assists in search and rescue operations and monitors security. This band, the Canadian Rangers is staffed by Inuit, who undoubtedly have the primary claim to the region having lived there long before any other ethnic group.

"It might be productive to explore the possibility of a joint Inuit/Federal government Northwest Passage authority that would offer a pro-active regulatory regime against the expected increase in ship traffic" said Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Mary Simon, recently in a speech on the subject of Arctic sovereignty to the House of Commons defence committee recently.

Interest in the region has been heightened this month with the publication of Michael Byers book Who Owns the Arctic? The author notes the cooperation which exists between the US and Canada concerning the St Lawrence seaway another passage which is administrated jointly by the two countries which border it.

Pic: A Russian Nuclear Icebreaker