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

Coulson Aviation CEO walks Australian crash site, pays tribute to fallen flight crew

Company’s 737 tanker crews back in the air fighting Australian bushfires

Port Alberni drag racers turn attention back to Stamp Avenue for 2020, 2021

AVDRA to ask city council for permission, road closures to run Thunder in the Valley Aug. 7-9, 2020

Port Alberni packs 500 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in 2019

Worldwide distribution begins for annual humanitarian aid campaign

BCHL: Comeback falls short for Alberni Valley Bulldogs

Visiting Langley Rivermen take the 3-2 win on Parents Weekend

Alberni floor curlers win tournament in Nanoose Bay

Four teams from Port Alberni compete on the road

VIDEO: Music stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at Grammys award show

Music artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Rick Ross and Kirk Franklin paid tribute to Bryant

Woman guilty of dangerous driving crash that left Saanich girl, then 11, unresponsive

Nikirk guilty of one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm

Pregnant B.C. woman stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak

Woman is due to give birth in Wuhan, China unless she can get out

Victoria-area wolf tranquilized after being seen running around neighbourhood

Officials say wolf unharmed during its ‘arrest’

Ontario confirms second presumptive coronavirus case in wife of first patient

Both arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

Most Read