Arctic Shipping

arctic-shippingAs Arctic sea ice melts due to global warming—the region has warmed at about twice the rate of the rest of the world over the last 100 years—the region is facing an unprecedented increase in the level of shipping within its waters. The loss of Arctic sea ice inexorably leads to new access to natural resources and increased regional shipping associated with exploiting these resources, especially oil and gas, minerals, and timber. Trans-Arctic commercial ship travel along the coasts of Russia and Canada will also increase, since the Arctic passages can be up to 5,000 miles shorter, saving shippers time and fuel costs compared with traditional routes. Finally, Arctic cruise ship travel, which grew 400 percent between 2004 and 2007, will increase further.  Increased Arctic shipping raises threats not only to human health and safety, but also to the Arctic’s pristine environment. Presently, the sensitive Arctic marine ecosystem is not adequately protected against the water and air pollution brought by ships. Sewage dumping, oily bilge water discharges, oil/fuel spill risks, toxic air pollutants, and climate-forcing emissions of black carbon are just some of the harms associated with increased ship traffic.

Friends of the Earth is working to create protective zones in the Arctic to help protect the Arctic Ocean from vessel pollution and other vessel impacts.

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