U.S. Coast Guard unveils Arctic Strategy With interest groWing in exploiting its abundant natural resources, as well as new navigation routes opening up, the Arctic is fast becoming what the moon was to the space race in the 1960s. The U.S., of course, would like to ensure its claims to the billions of barrels of oil, minerals and fisheries. The U.S. is the only Arctic nation that has not yet signed onto the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea. Last month, the U.S. Coast Guard announced its Arctic Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan foreign policy think tank in Washington, DC. In remarks at the event, ADM Robert Papp, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, outlined the reasons for the Coast Guard unveiling its strategy. “The Arctic Ocean is rapidly changing,” said the Commandant, “from a solid expanse of inaccessible ice fields into a growing navigable sea, attracting increased human activity and unlocking access to vast economic potential and energy resources.”
The second objective concerning governance will require the strengthening of international legal regimes, safeguarding the environment, preserving living marine resources and protecting U.S. sovereignty rights. The third objective is to promote the Coast Guard as an expert and experienced resource for partners, leverage domestic and international partnerships, and support national approach for Arctic planning. For its mission, the Coast Guard will need more than just two operational icebreakers, the medium icebreaker Healy, and the powerful but aging Polar Star. It is only in the process of developing and analyzing the requirements for the next generation heavy icebreaker. Congress needs to fund it. In closing the Admiral emphasized that there is a “national imperative in the Arctic, driven by an emerging maritime frontier and the promise of opportunity and prosperity…as well as risk. We all are called to action to meet that imperative.”
“The economic promise of oil and gas production in the Arctic is increasingly attractive as the supply of energy from traditional sources will struggle to meet demand. In the past four years, we’ve seen well over a 100 percent increase in traffic through the Bering Strait, and one million tons of cargo was shipped through the region last year. In addition, more than 50 percent of America’s fish stock comes from the Exclusive Economic Zone off the coast of Alaska.” The Alaska Arctic has the potential to produce billions of barrels of oil. Right now, however, things are in a holding pattern until federal regulatory standards are straightened out. The Coast Guard’s Arctic Strategy outlines three strategic objectives for the next 10 years in the region: Improving awareness; modernizing governance and broadening partnerships. The first objective is to understand the operating environment, its challenges, and the impact from increased activity.
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14 MARINE LOG June 2013