US and Russia propose Arctic ship traffic measures

The US and the Russian Federation have submitted a joint proposal to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to establish a system of two-way routes for ships in and around the Bering Strait.

The system would facilitate increasing traffic flows as a result of rising economic activity in the Arctic, the US Coast Guard (USCG) said late last week. The countries noted that declining ice coverage in the Arctic had raised the possibility of further natural resource exploration in the region and increased the viability of shorter shipping routes. They considered fresh traffic guidelines to be necessary because “over the preceding decade the US and the Russian Federation have observed and responded to a steady increase of interest in Arctic shipping activities which can be attributed to a climatic trend towards reduction of ice in the Arctic Ocean and Chukchi Sea”.

The USCG said that the proposed two-way routes would be voluntary for all domestic and international ships.

Fishing vessels account for roughly half of total activity in this region. Dry bulk carriers are the second-most common vessels in the region, followed by containerships, refrigerated cargo ships, vehicle carriers, general cargo ships, open hatch cargo ships, and finally chemical/products tankers.

The region is split between US and Russian territorial waters, but the two countries submitted the proposal to the IMO.