U.S., Russia propose Bering Strait ship traffic routing measures

News Release

Jan. 25, 2018
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
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U.S., Russia propose Bering Strait ship traffic routing measures

WASHINGTON – In response to increased Arctic shipping traffic, the United States and Russian Federation have proposed a system of two-way routes for vessels to follow in the Bering Strait and Bering Sea.

To view or download the routes, click here.

The nations jointly developed and submitted the proposal to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to establish six two-way routes and six precautionary areas.

Located in U.S. and Russian Federation territorial waters off the coasts of Alaska and the Chukotskiy Peninsula, the routes are being recommended to help ships avoid the numerous shoals, reefs and islands outside the routes and to reduce the potential for marine casualties and environmental disasters.

The proposed two-way routes will be voluntary for all domestic and international ships.

No additional Aids to Navigation (ATON) are being proposed to mark the recommended two-way routes and the routing measures do not limit commercial fishing or subsistence activities.

“Over the past decade, the U.S. and Russia have both observed a steady increase in Arctic shipping activity,” said Mike Sollosi, the chief of the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Standards Division.

Increased commercial and recreational traffic bring the increased risk of maritime casualties, said Sollosi, and the bilateral proposal for routing measures is designed to reduce that risk.

“The U.S. Coast Guard is engaging international and interagency partners across borders in developing joint proposals for ship routes in waterways that we share,” said Sollosi.

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Ultimately it will depend on China, they are Russia’s biggest customer for oil and the biggest trader to the West.

World trade routes could change quickly and irrevesably.

From Lloyds List:

BEIJING is considering extending its globe-spanning Belt and Road initiative to the Arctic as it seeks partners to collaborate in opening up shipping routes in that region.

“China is ready to co-operate with all relevant parties to seize the historic opportunity in the development of the Arctic, to address the challenges brought by the changes in the region,” according to a white paper issued on Friday by the State Council Information Office.

It added that the Belt and Road initiative presents opportunities for the creation of a ‘Polar Silk Road’ “together with basic principles of respect, co-operation, win-win situations and sustainability,” it said.

China intends to consider “the interests of other countries and the broader international community” even as it pursues its own interests.

Land territories in the Arctic span about 8m sq km with jurisdictions held by Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US.

China does not border the Arctic region but is one of 13 countries holding observer status with the Arctic Council.

The Arctic Ocean is spread over 12m sq km, with nations sharing maritime rights and interests based on international law.

The paper said Chinese enterprises will be encouraged to carry out infrastructure development along the Arctic shipping routes and to put pilot sailings into effect in preparation for actual commercial voyages.

It noted that navigational safety will be key to the initiative and that China had been carrying out studies about these routes and has ramped up hydrographic surveys to enhance navigation, security and logistics capabilities.

In 2013, Cosco’s Yong Sheng arrived in Rotterdam following a 35-day voyage from Dalian in China.

The conventional route, taking ships via the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea, takes 48 days to complete. Yong Sheng shaved 13 days off the voyage by travelling through the Arctic Circle, transiting the northern sea route, the first Chinese commercial vessel to do so.

On the commercial side, the nation will be weighing up opportunities in oil and gas, mineral resources, non-fossil fuel-based energy resources, fishing and tourism along with the other Arctic states.

The paper said the nation will respect the traditions and cultures of the Arctic’s indigenous people and make efforts to preserve the environment there.

Beijing intends to prioritise policy co-ordination, infrastructure connectivity, free trade and financial links.

“China calls for the peaceful utilisation of the Arctic and commits itself to maintaining peace and stability in the region,” the paper said, adding that the nation will support peaceful resolutions with regard to disputes over territory and maritime rights.

The country believes it interests are in line with international treaties such as the UN Charter, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and general international law.

It will also aim to increase co-operation with Arctic States in the areas of maritime and air search and rescue, maritime early warning systems, emergency response measures, as well as the sharing of relevant information.

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