ShipArc 2015 Emphasizes Collaboration as Key to Arctic Stewardship

The increasingly ice-diminished Arctic environment has accelerated interest in, and potential for, new maritime trade routes, merchant transportation, and resource development such as mining, oil & gas exploration, tourism and fishing. The international conference, Safe and Sustainable Shipping in the Arctic Environment (ShipArc 2015) took place 25-27 August at the World Maritime University and brought together over 300 participants from 75 countries to discuss a forward-looking agenda that respects the fragile Arctic frontier.
The conference was a joint effort by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) working group of the Arctic Council, and the World Maritime University. In the opening address, IMO Secretary-General, Mr. Koji Sekimizu, remarked that the opening up of the Arctic to greater maritime activity provides both a unique challenge and opportunity, and that IMO measures such as the recently adopted Polar Code will help to ensure the safety of ships operating in polar areas and the protection of the polar environment.
WMU President, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, noted the timeliness of the conference in regard to the recently agreed on2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that is due to be adopted by Heads of States at the United Nations later in September. Goal 14 of the agenda is entitled “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development,” and Dr. Doumbia-Henry emphasized that the outcomes of the conference will inform the way forward for IMO, the Arctic Council and WMU regarding the Arctic and sustainable development. 
The conference included a broad range of topics with subthemes of: The Polar Code, Beyond the Polar Code, Arctic Governance, Sustainable Arctic Business Development, Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment, and a focus on Training, Capacity-Building, Science and Research. Prominent speakers at the forefront of their fields encouraged collaboration among the Arctic States in particular, and the importance of not only data sharing and standardization, but initial data gathering to better understand the current state of the Arctic. It was also emphasized that the Arctic cannot be considered to be isolated from invasive species or pollution. Plastics are already present in the Arctic due to natural ocean currents so the region has already been compromised with pollution which leads to the larger agenda that all oceans need to be clean.
Challenges to current thinking about climate change were posed by Dr. David Carlson, Chief Editor for Earth System Science Data and Director of the World Climate Research Programme. He stated that the current focus on black carbon as a top cause for global warming is nowhere near as urgent as the need to control greenhouse gas emissions such as Co2 and methane. He acknowledged that black carbon is indeed an area for concern, but not an urgent priority and that policy makers need to shift their focus to more urgent matters.
It was generally recognized that the recently adopted Polar Code is an important step in Arctic stewardship, yet there is much more work to be done. Arsenio Dominguez, Ambassador & Permanent Representative of Panama to the IMO and Chairman and of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee pointed out that, “The Polar Code cannot be looked at in isolation.” He noted it is an important starting point that is an incredible collaborative effort by IMO Member States, but it will be revised and enhanced as more information becomes available from Member States operating in Arctic waters.
Dr. Lawson Brigham, Distinguished Professor of Geography & Arctic Policy, University of Alaska Fairbanks, predicted that the law enforcement actions by the Arctic States may surprise everyone in the global shipping enterprise saying that he expects “the sovereign States who actually own this place, the Arctic and the central Arctic Ocean, will exercise extraordinary sovereign control over the areas, particularly Port State Control, so the Polar Code will be exercised fully and earnestly in the near future by the Arctic States.”
The lack of accurate and reliable nautical charts, aids of navigation, and port reception facilities were acknowledged as slowing the pace of Arctic development providing some time to “get it right” in terms of Arctic stewardship. It was concluded that collaboration and responsibility are essential to developing the governance and regulations necessary to protect the Arctic, and that indigenous inhabitants have a key role to play in terms of contributing to research and knowledge about the region. Overall the event had a positive tone, but an underlying current of urgency as it was recognized that our globe has never before seen a time of such rapid change. 
At plenary

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