With Increased Arctic Shipping, Approval Expected Next Week for Bering Strait Protections

Press release from Pacific Environment

Advisory – Bering Strait Arctic Shipping Decision Next Week

Milestone protections proposed jointly by the U.S. and Russia to establish arctic shipping routes and define environmentally sensitive areas in the Bering Strait are anticipated to be approved next week – May 21-25.  Cooperation between the U.S. and Russia on Arctic matters, especially shipping, remains high.

With increased shipping, concerns loom about potential shipwrecks, environmental catastrophes, and casualties in the Bering Strait’s remote, arctic waters where emergencies or oil spill response is severely limited or non-existent.

The pending proposal steers shippers away from hazards such as shoals and reefs to established routes charted in modern times.

As well, the U.S. has proposed protections for three marine areas critical for wildlife central to local cultures and food security.  Local Bering Strait communities provided extensive input into defining the proposal and defending it at the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Adoption of similar routing measures and protected areas in the Aleutian Islands have dramatically shifted ships away from sensitive and dangerous areas.

The proposal will be heard next week in London by the IMO, the specialized United Nations agency that sets international shipping law.

Kevin Harun, Arctic Program Director for Pacific Environment will attend next week’s meeting.  IMO rules require that participants wait until Friday of next week (London time) to issue formal press releases, but we are available to offer background, contacts, and embargoed information.

The two proposals under consideration are attached.  Thanks for your ongoing interest in the Arctic.

Sue Libenson

Senior Arctic Program Officer, Pacific Environment



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