Arctic Transportation

White House Arctic Policy Directive

The Maritime Administration is pleased to post a copy of the National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD – 66 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD – 25 entitled “Arctic Region Policy,” as approved January 9, 2009.

Maritime transportation is addressed under Section III “Policy”, Part F, “Maritime Transportation in the Arctic Region.” It states that the U.S. priorities for maritime transportation in the Arctic region are:

  • To facilitate safe, secure, and reliable navigation;
  • To protect maritime commerce; and
  • To protect the environment.

This new directive is an update of the U.S. Arctic policy statement from the 1994 Presidential Decision Directive/NSC 26 (PDD-26).

For more information on the policy and Maritime Administration programs related to Arctic Transportation, contact Mr. Joseph A. Byrne, Associate Administrator for Environment and Compliance,

View Presidential Directive

Maritime Administration and Industry Leaders Explore Potential for Use of Arctic Ocean as Commercial Maritime Trade Route

At an evening roundtable hosted by the Propeller Club of Seattle, on December 4, 2008, Maritime Administrator Sean Connaughton presented his view on Arctic Transportation to 100 national and international maritime industry leaders and government officials. Also attending were representatives of U.S. and Canadian ports.

In setting the tone, Mr. Connaughton led off the discussions by noting how the opening of the Arctic Region would have immense transportation impacts. He also spoke about the uncertainty in terms of infrastructure and merchant marine capability, and how the government could assist in planning and policy. He discussed the necessity for careful, principled global cooperation in addressing all commercial and other issues affecting development/utilization within the Arctic Region and assured the audience that the Maritime Administration would partner with the maritime industry to ensure that commercial transportation interests are addressed in future plans.

Following the Administrator's speech, Dr. John L. Mitchiner, Senior Manager for the Computational Sciences Research and Development Group (CS R&D) at Sandia National Laboratories, assessed the potential economic, environmental and security impact of Arctic climate change. He highlighted the scientific community's predictions of a gradual climate change over decades and how the Arctic region may become an increasingly important economic region, the potential impacts of Arctic climate change on human activity along with its constraints and risks.

Mr. Ben Ellis, Managing Director, Institute of the North, then gave a brief description and update on the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment.  He also spoke on the current, political, climatologically, social, and economic factors impacting the commercial use of the Arctic Ocean and its environs as a maritime trade route, both near term and in the foreseeable future.

After Mr. Ellis, Mr. Joseph A. Byrne, Maritime Administration's Associate Administrator for Environment and Compliance, closed out the more formal evening presentations by giving the details of the Agency's active involvement in the development of the Arctic Region as a new international route for maritime trade and commerce. Among other things, he asked the audience to consider whether a trans-Arctic seaway route would be as important to maritime commerce as the Great Circle Route is to air transportation, or would it be more of a venue for shipping in and out of the Arctic region itself, servicing the needs of tourism, local development and bringing to market the natural resources, oil, gas, and minerals.

Propeller Club members and attendees then participated in a lively question-and-answer session, inquiring into the many differing assessments and prognoses of the availability and reliability of the Arctic Region as a route for regular trade and commerce.

Maritime Administrator Sean T. Connaughton's Comments

Associate Administrator for Environment And Compliance Joseph A. Byrne's Talking Points

Senior Manager for the CS R&D Group at Sandia National Laboratories, Dr. John L. Mitchiner's Presentation


Arctic Transportation Conference

At the Arctic Transportation Conference, hosted by the Maritime Administration in Washington D.C. on June 5, 2008, more than 100 national and international maritime and energy government and industry leaders, discussed the potential for development of the Arctic Ocean, and the region generally, as a viable maritime route for oceangoing trade, resource exploration and development.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska led off the discussions by noting the potential impact of an Arctic route on the State of Alaska, the need for the U.S. ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention, and the necessity for careful, principled global cooperation in the development/utilization of the Region.

Representatives of the Department of State, the White House Office of Science and Technology, the Arctic Research Commission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Institute of the North examined into the current, political, climatological, social, and economic factors impacting the commercial use of the Arctic Ocean and its environs.

Industry leaders, in turn, presented differing assessments and prognoses of the availability and reliability of the Arctic Region as a route for regular trade and commerce. A panel of vessel owner/operators of domestic and foreign flag carriers debated all aspects of the risks and rewards of operating in the Region’s ice-covered waters. Each agreed, however, that even if the area would lend itself to commercial operations, such operations would require, among other things, substantial infrastructure development, the installation of effective aids to navigation, regular, dependable, long range and immediate local weather forecasting, reliable, available search and rescue capabilities, vessels designed to operate in such waters, and mariners trained in operating in such harsh climates.

The Deputy Secretary of Transportation emphasized that with respect to this issue of Arctic Transportation, “the future is now”. He went on to underscore the importance of collaboration between industry and government in addressing all of the concerns mentioned above – the implications of opening the Arctic to transportation as they relate to design and operation of vessels, safety, security and environmental matters, qualifications of seamen operating such vessels, and the availability of resources to fund such initiatives.

Based upon the views expressed at the Conference, the Maritime Administration will soon announce a comprehensive plan for an in-depth, collaborative assessment and oversight of the serious issues raised at this first of its kind U.S. forum on the viability of commercial maritime transportation in the Arctic.

Arctic Transportation - Speeches and Presentations

Remarks by Senator Lisa Murkowski

Presentation by Ben Ellis, Institute of the North, "Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment: Implications of a Changing Arctic"

Presentation by Thomas Gilmour, ABS Americas: "Arctic Shipping and Class"

Presentation by John Dolny, Stevens Institute of Technology, "International Student Design Competition: Ultra Green Arctic Shipping System"

Presentation by John Calder, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "Maritime-Relevant Arctic Science at NOAA"

Presentation by William Sheffield, Port of Anchorage, "Northwest Intermodal Conference"

Presentation by Kathy Metcalf, Chamber of Shipping of America, "The Evolving Arctic Trade Route: Industry View--Boon or Bust?"

Presentation by Peter Noble, Conoco Phillips, "Circum-Polar Developments in Oil and Gas"

Presentation by Nils Mortensen, BIMCO

Presentation by Ted Thompson, Cruise Lines International

Presentation by Mead Treadwell, U.S. Arctic Research Commission, "Is America Ready for an Accessible Arctic?"

Presentation by Dan Walker, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Transportation Thomas Barrett

Upcoming Arctic Transportation Events

No events are currently scheduled.

Groups Addressing Arctic Policy

Arctic Planning Group

Papers on Arctic Transportation Policy

Arctic Analyses

Arctic Analyses Part II Study

Arctic Liaison Office PowerPoint

Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment

Arctic Newspaper Article and Map

Bloomberg Article

Climate Derived Challenges in the Arctic

Coast Guard Icebreakers Statement

Congressional Information Bureau on Arctic Program

Congressional Information Bureau on Arctic Program

Copenhagen Consensus on the Arctic

Law of the Sea Convention and NorthWest Passage

Mapping Arctic Part I

Mapping Arctic Part II




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