The midnight sun shines over the ice covered waters near Resolute bay at 1:30am as seen from the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent Saturday, July 12, 2008. The Louis is on its annual voyage through Canada’s Arctic that includes patrols through the Northwest Passage. Environmental groups are applauding what they call a trend among international shippers and shipping companies to voluntarily promise to stay away from controversial Arctic routes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

More shippers and shipping companies promise to avoid Arctic routes

So far, 21 companies that either ship goods internationally or carry those goods have signed

Environmental groups are applauding international shippers and shipping companies that have voluntarily promised to stay away from controversial Arctic routes.

“We were really excited to get this pledge together,” said Dan Hubbell of the Ocean Conservancy, which is co-ordinating the campaign.

So far, 21 companies that either ship goods internationally or carry those goods have signed.

That means signatories that produce consumer goods — including Nike, Puma, Columbia and Ralph Lauren — will ensure their products aren’t shipped along routes that go through Arctic waters.

Shippers, which include global giants such as Kuehne + Nagel and Hapag-Lloyd, won’t send their own vessels along those lanes or arrange for others to ply them.

Hubbell said the signatories control about one-third of the shipping industry by market share.

That’s 1,366 ships and three of the top five shipping companies in the world.

That’s worth celebrating, Hubbell said.

“The Arctic is both unique and uniquely vulnerable. We’re still a long ways away from having any support infrastructure or rapid response if we have a spill.”

The impact of shipping on Arctic ecosystems, animals such as beluga whales, narwhal and walrus, as well as Indigenous communities is largely unknown. Ice and periods of 24-hour darkness add to the hazards of northern seas.

Arctic shipping remains in its infancy, but it has been growing at a rate of about six per cent a year, said Greg Fiske, a researcher at the Woods Hole oceanographic institution in Massachusetts.

“Ships are increasing,” he said. ”Mostly, it’s the Russians.”

VIDEO: Chill with polar bears through an Arctic live cam

Just over half of all vessels in the Arctic are Russian, Fiske found. They are traversing the Northern Sea Route that Russia has been developing over recent years along its northern coast.

Fiske counted about 3,100 commercial vessels in Arctic waters in 2016, the vast majority on the Northern Sea Route. About half are cargo vessels of some type: from oil tankers to bulk shippers. The rest are for passengers, supplies or fishing.

“We also found that smaller ships are increasing faster than larger ships,” Fiske said. “It’s the smaller ships that are a big worry for policy-makers because they have a greater risk.”

He expects it will be hard to persuade shippers to stay away from the Arctic as climate change shrinks the ice cover that has kept it in frozen isolation.

“You’re opening up a brand new ocean and it’s going to be pretty difficult to keep folks from using it.”

Hubbell said the no-use promise can make a difference — especially since it’s part of a larger campaign against other environmental threats to the area such as heavy fuel oil, a big source of greenhouse gases as well as black carbon.

“I think it’s important for us to send a signal,” he said.

“It’s exciting to see the narrative shift. Changes in the Arctic aren’t some magical economic opportunity here — it’s evidence of a real tragedy.

“We hope other companies will sign on.”

READ MORE: ‘Not what it used to be:’ Warm Arctic autumn creates ice hazards for Inuit

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Leaders of Tomorrow kicks off Jan. 16

Nominations accepted for youth recognition until Feb. 22

Team improves access to addiction, mental health supports

Service provides expanded on-call consultation

Hang up on the phone fraudsters

If the phone call seems kind of crazy…

Pinpointing innovations

How precision spraying system helps Kings Lake Hutterite Colony save time, products and water

County gravel pit requires wetland solution

County of Wetaskiwin hears report about wetlands at Hilgartner pit

VIDEO: Trudeau insists Iran respect families’ wishes when it comes to burials

All 176 people on board the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 were killed

Alberta Energy Regulator laying off staff, restructures, deals with budget cuts

Gordon Lambert, interim CEO, says the changes are part of a restructuring

Energy companies owe more than double the tax to Alberta municipalities

Survey says communities are owed $173 million — up 114% since last spring

No gondola from Banff to Mount Norquay, feds say

Parks Canada dismisses proposal for gondola, Grizzly Pavilion and boardwalks

U.S. officials confirm first case of Wuhan coronavirus near Seattle

The U.S. is the fifth country to report seeing the illness

Nine times lucky? Alberta’s Northern Cree takes another shot at Grammy gold

The group originates from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in northern Alberta

Tax revolt? Unpaid taxes from energy companies to Alberta towns more than double

The association says they are owed a total of $173 million

New post-secondary funding model in Alberta tied to performance measures

By 2022, up to 40 per cent of post-secondary funding could be linked to performance

Most Read