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Who should pay for safety at sea in the Arctic?
Published:  04 November, 2011

"Individually, the Nordic countries are small, while the Arctic waters cover a vast area, so the Nordic Region will have to work together to improve safety at sea in the far north. And why not ask shipping companies to help foot the bill?" the Nordic Council asked at its annual Session in Copenhagen, 1-3 November.

In May, the Arctic Council adopted a 'Search and Rescue' agreement, but more needs to be done, especially about prevention of accidents, according to the Nordic Council Environment Committee.

The council is calling on the Nordic governments to launch a series of tangible initiatives that will enhance safety in the Arctic and benefit both the environment and the people who live there.

It is calling, for example, for joint surveillance of Arctic waters and closer collaboration on the prevention of accidents in the far north.

Nordic economies of scale make good sense in a number of areas, especially when it comes to expensive procurement and operational responsibility for matters such as safety at sea in international waters. In May, the Arctic Council adopted a 'Search and Rescue' agreement, but more needs to be done, especially about prevention of accidents, according to the Nordic Council Environment Committee.

"Last summer, I saw with my own eyes the power of the natural forces that we are up against in the Arctic. We have to acknowledge the risk of being unable to rescue people in the event of a disaster and put greater energy into prevention," one Swedish Social Democrat, Ann-Kristine Johansson MP, told the Session of the Nordic Council in Copenhagen on 3 November.

Nordic economies of scale make good sense in a number of areas, especially when it comes to expensive procurement and operational responsibility for matters such as safety at sea in international waters.

The council will submit a series of recommendations on the Arctic to the Nordic governments, including one to set up a joint maritime task force.

"Closer co-ordination of existing resources in the national coastguards would be a major improvement. And, if the Nordic countries work together within the UN's International Maritime Organisation it could, for example, lead to an ban on large passenger ships sailing alone in the Arctic, which would be a significant safety improvement," she added.

The council also wants to make use of Nordic experience of combating pollution at sea to develop more far-reaching international agreements and obligations under UN auspices.

Two of the Committee's proposals are a direct result of the 2009 Stoltenberg Report report on closer Nordic collaboration on defence and foreign policy. Unfortunately, not enough progress has been made on implementation of the report's proposals, according the Environment Committee.

The council is also calling for a study of the funding options for greater surveillance and better rescue services in the Arctic.

"More and more cruise ships are plying Arctic waters, and as the ice melts more and more shipping is expected in the area. We have to look at whether shipping companies should be asked to foot part of the bill for safety measures that cover them," the Environment Committee said.




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