ECSA Warns of Icebergs Ahead
As climate change alters the arctic landscape and the extent of ice-covered areas shrinks, maritime transport in the world’s northernmost region has become a widely discussed issue due to its growing strategic importance.
The legal regime for trans-Arctic shipping is complex and consists of the framework laid down in UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) as well as IMO (International Maritime Organisation) instruments.
Presently, some coastal states have unilaterally laid claim to parts of the region and have put in place discriminatory practices, to the disadvantage of ships registered in non- Arctic States.
ECSA Secretary-General Patrick Verhoeven said: “Freedom of navigation and the right to innocent passage are principles that should take precedence over the rights of coastal states to unilaterally prescribe standards in the Arctic. This should be one of the pillars of a future EU policy for the region.”
Furthermore, there is a lack of legally binding IMO standards. Thus, ECSA calls for the adoption of a mandatory code on polar shipping, an initiative on which the IMO embarked upon in2010, the so-called “IMO Polar Code” which is expected to become mandatory in 2015.
These recommendations are part of a position paper ECSA issued on a future EU policy on the Arctic region, which further includes a call for the development of reinforced infrastructure and technology such as navigation aids, weather forecasts, bunkering facilities, monitoring of drifting ice, port reception facilities for ship’s waste, possible ice-breaking assistance, as well as search and rescue, which are critical in a region with such extreme prevailing weather conditions.
“Infrastructure and technology tailored to the special needs of the North Pole should accompany the development of a legal framework,” said Patrick Verhoeven.
“The EU should ensure via the IT means at its disposal but also via the special weight of its Member States in the IMO, that the practical needs of shipping in the arctic region are met.”
Lastly, ECSA recognises that EU observer status in the Arctic Council could be an added value for the future development of the region, since the Council is an intergovernmental forum and not a regulatory body.
June 5, 2014