8/14/2017: Recap of Coast Guard remarks at the 7th Symposium on Impacts of an Ice-Diminishing Arctic

Last month, Maritime Commons attended the 7th Symposium on the Impacts of an Ice-Diminishing Arctic to bring you, our readers, the latest on Arctic-related topics affecting maritime industry. Following is a recap of several presentations made by Coast Guard members for those unable to attend the symposium. We hope you enjoy it!

Coast Guard members had the opportunity to present during the 7th Symposium on the Impacts of an Ice-Diminishing Arctic, July 18-20, 2017, at the Naval Heritage Center in Washington, D.C. The event, held biennially since 2007, brings together some of the world’s leading experts to discuss the ongoing and expected impacts on naval and maritime operations due to rapid change in the Arctic sea ice cover. The event is hosted and sponsored by the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and the U.S. National Ice Center.

In a keynote address, Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, noted, “We cannot take our eyes off the ball in the Arctic. We have an obligation to the citizens of this country to be prepared so that we can ensure our national security, assert our nation’s sovereignty, and protect our national economic interests.”

Zukunft also talked about the importance of forming cooperative partnerships in the Arctic domain, like the partnership among the eight Arctic nations of the Arctic Coast Guard Forum. “The issues emerging in the Arctic are too broad for any single entity or single nation to manage. Readiness requires collaboration,” he said.

One of those issues is the expectation for increased oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, despite a recent downturn in activity. Zukunft stressed the need for the Coast Guard to prepare to mobilize and keep pace with industry.

“Knowing how quickly the private sector can mobilize, we need to ready ourselves now,” Zukunft said. “The Coast Guard cannot be the ones holding up industry because we are not ready. Experience tells us a boom in industry will come with gaps in experience, training, and competence – especially when we are talking about the dynamic environment of the Arctic – and that means higher risk, both to the environment and to lives.”

Cmdr. Gabrielle McGrath, commanding officer of the International Ice Patrol (IIP), also presented during the symposium. The IIP’s mission is to monitor the iceberg danger in the North Atlantic Ocean and to provide relevant iceberg warning products to the maritime community. These products are available to users and the general public by several means, including INMARSAT SafetyNet, NAVTEX, SITOR, and online.

IIP was formed in an effort to prevent similar disasters following the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic after it struck an iceberg. The ice season typically runs from early February through the end of July. IIP uses both aerial and satellite reconnaissance to detect and identify icebergs. Coast Guard fixed-wing aircraft patrol the North Atlantic to assess the extent of iceberg danger. Much of their effort is focused on detecting icebergs in the Trans-Atlantic shipping lanes. In 2017, for the first time in history, IIP operationally used satellite-derived iceberg data from its operations center in iceberg warning products. McGrath said this information is currently only being used in the northern regions of the IIP operational area due to some continued challenges with satellite technology. IIP began investigating the use of this technology in the early 1990s.

In her remarks, McGrath noted the 2017 Ice Season is on record as the 19th most severe season since 1900, and the fourth extreme season in a row; as of July 18, 993 icebergs had been detected in shipping lanes. McGrath also highlighted the new Seven-Day Iceberg Outlook, a product IIP recently introduced that provides mariners a one-week outlook for iceberg activity in east Newfoundland waters and the Labrador coast. Finally, McGrath highlighted IIP’s planned support of the Coast Guard Cutter Maple’s transit of the Northwest Passage in August 2017. IIP will provide personalized iceberg warnings to the cutter along its trackline from Lancaster Sound, just north of Baffin Island, south to its arrival in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

David Raboy with the Coast Guard’s heavy polar icebreaker acquisition program gave attendees an update on efforts to recapitalize and expand the U.S. icebreaking fleet to meet mission demands in the Polar Regions. The Coast Guard is currently contracted with five industry partners to conduct studies that examine cost, schedule, and performance trade-offs. Additionally, the Coast Guard and Navy have established an Integrated Program Office to leverage the experience of both services to identify solutions to minimize cost, schedule, and production risk. Current plans are to award the Detail Design and Construction contract in 2019 with the first ship being delivered in 2023.

Capt. Benjamin Hawkins, chief of the Office of Design and Engineering Standards, participated in a panel on Arctic marine transportation. Other organizations represented on the panel were Marine Exchange of Alaska, Holland & Hart, Federal Arctic Research Center of Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Alaska Ocean Observing System.

During the panel, Hawkins discussed implementation of the IMO Polar Code, which went into force in January, and highlighted the requirement for owners and operators of ships operating in the Arctic to evaluate the risks associated with this harsh environment and how the Polar Code applies to their particular operations. Hawkins also talked about international efforts to support the harmonized implementation of the Polar Code by working with regional governments, captains of the port, and harbor safety committees to identify information that could be considered when conducting the operational assessments required by the Polar Code.

Dozens of other U.S. and international organizations presented during the three-day event including the commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Ice Center; the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development; the International Arctic Science Consortium; the Defense Attaché from the Embassy of Denmark; and the School of Policy Studies at the Queen’s University in Canada.

To read more about the symposium download the program.

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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