The midnight sun shines over the ice covered waters near Resolute bay at 1:30am as seen from the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent Saturday, July 12, 2008. The Louis is on its annual voyage through Canada’s Arctic that includes patrols through the Northwest Passage. Environmental groups are applauding what they call a trend among international shippers and shipping companies to voluntarily promise to stay away from controversial Arctic routes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

More shippers and shipping companies promise to avoid Arctic routes

So far, 21 companies that either ship goods internationally or carry those goods have signed

Environmental groups are applauding international shippers and shipping companies that have voluntarily promised to stay away from controversial Arctic routes.

“We were really excited to get this pledge together,” said Dan Hubbell of the Ocean Conservancy, which is co-ordinating the campaign.

So far, 21 companies that either ship goods internationally or carry those goods have signed.

That means signatories that produce consumer goods — including Nike, Puma, Columbia and Ralph Lauren — will ensure their products aren’t shipped along routes that go through Arctic waters.

Shippers, which include global giants such as Kuehne + Nagel and Hapag-Lloyd, won’t send their own vessels along those lanes or arrange for others to ply them.

Hubbell said the signatories control about one-third of the shipping industry by market share.

That’s 1,366 ships and three of the top five shipping companies in the world.

That’s worth celebrating, Hubbell said.

“The Arctic is both unique and uniquely vulnerable. We’re still a long ways away from having any support infrastructure or rapid response if we have a spill.”

The impact of shipping on Arctic ecosystems, animals such as beluga whales, narwhal and walrus, as well as Indigenous communities is largely unknown. Ice and periods of 24-hour darkness add to the hazards of northern seas.

Arctic shipping remains in its infancy, but it has been growing at a rate of about six per cent a year, said Greg Fiske, a researcher at the Woods Hole oceanographic institution in Massachusetts.

“Ships are increasing,” he said. ”Mostly, it’s the Russians.”

VIDEO: Chill with polar bears through an Arctic live cam

Just over half of all vessels in the Arctic are Russian, Fiske found. They are traversing the Northern Sea Route that Russia has been developing over recent years along its northern coast.

Fiske counted about 3,100 commercial vessels in Arctic waters in 2016, the vast majority on the Northern Sea Route. About half are cargo vessels of some type: from oil tankers to bulk shippers. The rest are for passengers, supplies or fishing.

“We also found that smaller ships are increasing faster than larger ships,” Fiske said. “It’s the smaller ships that are a big worry for policy-makers because they have a greater risk.”

He expects it will be hard to persuade shippers to stay away from the Arctic as climate change shrinks the ice cover that has kept it in frozen isolation.

“You’re opening up a brand new ocean and it’s going to be pretty difficult to keep folks from using it.”

Hubbell said the no-use promise can make a difference — especially since it’s part of a larger campaign against other environmental threats to the area such as heavy fuel oil, a big source of greenhouse gases as well as black carbon.

“I think it’s important for us to send a signal,” he said.

“It’s exciting to see the narrative shift. Changes in the Arctic aren’t some magical economic opportunity here — it’s evidence of a real tragedy.

“We hope other companies will sign on.”

READ MORE: ‘Not what it used to be:’ Warm Arctic autumn creates ice hazards for Inuit

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Putting agriculture back in the classroom

Alberta teachers get first hand experience through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s Agriculture Literacy Program

Update: Possible drowning at Pigeon Lake involved man and woman from Edmonton

Bodies recovered from Pigeon Lake’s northeastern shores.

Sylvan Lake man’s documentary getting limited run in Alberta theatres

Scott McDermott’s documentary will be in 14 theatres, including Sylvan Lake and Wetaskiwin

134 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday

First day over 100 cases since July 31

Pay bills, reduce spending, emergency funds: Canadians polled on COVID financial priorities

Credit Canada Financial Priorities Poll reveals short term mindset

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

13-year-old charged in death of boy, 10 in Maskwacis

The RCMP Major Crimes Unit have laid a manslaughter charge against a 13-year-old boy from Maskwacis.

‘Caught up in the frenzy:’ Oilers 50/50 draw breaking ticket sale records

Previous record was held by Toronto Raptors fans when a 50/50 raffle reached $2 million

Alberta jury trials to resume next month at offsite locations due to COVID-19

About 12 locations across Alberta may host the trials in halls, hotels and community centres

Alberta school curriculum to focus on basics, keep out political bias: minister

NDP education critic says the kindergarten to Grade 4 changes should have been implemented a year ago

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Canada plans $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. in aluminium dispute

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Walmart to make face masks mandatory for customers across Canada

Requirement goes into effect on Wednesday, Aug. 12 across Canada

Most Read