1/21/2015: Arctic initiatives and efforts

Today, the President released the Executive Order to Enhance Coordination of National Efforts in the Arctic. The Arctic is a rapidly changing, complex and dynamic environment. This Executive Order will enhance coordination during a period when the Arctic is growing in long-term strategic, ecological, cultural and economic value. The Executive Order will help the Administration, in coordination with the State of Alaska and Alaska Natives, to achieve strategic priorities and enhance coordination of United States Government efforts across the National Arctic Strategy’s three lines of effort: advancing U.S. security interests; pursuing responsible Arctic region stewardship; and strengthening international cooperation.

As the nation’s lead federal agency for ensuring maritime safety, security and stewardship in the Arctic, the Coast Guard performs its statutory missions to ensure the arctic remains a safe, secure and environmentally protected region. As outlined in the Coast Guard’s Arctic Strategy, the Coast Guard will achieve this vision through three strategic objectives in the Arctic: improving awareness, modernizing governance and broadening partnerships. These objectives compliment the National Strategy.

Expanding maritime activities in the Arctic require increased presence, oversight, regulatory enforcement and contingency response. In order to increase safety and stewardship of the arctic maritime, the Coast Guard is leading several marine transportation initiatives. They will better affect the manner in which vessels are constructed, operate and their crews are trained; the routes they will take; and finally creation of a venue to better gain partner consensus on best management of the Arctic/North Slope’s Marine Transportation System.

The International Maritime Organization, or IMO, has developed the international code for ships operating in polar waters, also known as the Polar Code, which will enter into force January 2017. The adoption of the Polar Code by the IMO raises the standards for commercial ships operating or transiting in Arctic and Antarctic waters. It will result in increased safety of international shipping in Polar Regions as well as increased environmental protection for both domestic and international polar waters. The key provisions of the Polar Code include: mandatory certification requirements, risk assessments and voyage planning; ice strengthening, cold temperature protection for exposed equipment, additional tank protection for oil/oily mixtures and noxious liquid substances, ice navigation training where appropriate; and additional restrictions on the discharges of wastes, including zero discharge of oily mixtures.

The Bering Strait Port Access Route Study began in 2010, to help reduce the risk of maritime casualties and increase the efficiency of commercial vessel traffic movement, in anticipation of increasing vessel traffic in the region. The Coast Guard developed a potential vessel routing system for the area with input from numerous stakeholders. The routing measures consist of a series of four nautical mile wide, two-way transit routes, coupled with precautionary areas at junction points. The comment period on the Federal Register is open until June 3, 2015 and all are encouraged all to review and provide comments.

The Coast Guard facilitated development of an Arctic Waterway Safety Committee which will provide a common voice on arctic maritime issues. The AWCS is a focused nongovernmental committee dedicated to addressing safety, security, subsistence and environmental issues facing the arctic. Stakeholders work collaboratively to solve arctic waterway related issues without the incorporation of new regulations.

Through close partnerships with international, federal, state, local and tribal agencies and frequent interaction with regulated industries, the nation will find the right mix of resources to protect mariners, the environment and our nation’s interests in the vast arctic region.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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