Arctic Yearbook 2012
Tonami and Watters
Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC): it carries out a
research program on the Northern Hemisphere Zone.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA): it undertakes scientific observation using
special satellites that monitor water circulation in the sea, the effect of greenhouse gases, etc.
In addition, the Ocean Policy Research Foundation (OPRF), which is a think-tank and a lobbying
organization for the Japanese shipping industry and related manufacturing industries, has conducted
several research projects on the Arctic, particularly regarding the Northern Sea Route (NSR).
Regarding the Japanese government’s capacity to conduct maritime activities in the polar regions,
Japan owns three icebreakers; the
. The Shirase is under the auspices of the
Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (SDF). For this reason, there are legal restrictions on the scope
of usage for the
, based on the SDF Act.
At present, the
may only be used as a supply
vessel for the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE) under NIPR, and there is no
discussion to change the relevant law.
are owned by the Japan Coast Guard and
only used as patrol boats, operating from Hokkaido in northern Japan.
As mentioned above, Japan exhibited a particular interest in the scientific aspect of the Arctic during
the Cold War period and joined the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) as a non-Arctic
state since its establishment in 1990.
In response, the Centre for Arctic Research was established at
Three years later, the Ship & Ocean Foundation (now OPRF) began a six-year research project titled
‘International Northern Sea Route Programme (INSROP)’. The Nippon Foundation, which is one
of the largest private foundations in Japan, funded this project, and it was carried out in cooperation
with the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Norway and the Central Marine Research and Design Institute
in Russia. The project was one of the first international research projects that aimed to prove the
technical feasibility of the NSR as an international commercial sea-lane
According to OPRF, the project ended successfully with “abundant fruit in assessment of the
insurance and legal issues of the NSR and sensible suggestions for improvements”
Concurrently, the Ship & Ocean Foundation conducted the ‘Japan Northern Sea Route Programme
(JANSROP)’, which, compared with INSROP, was primarily for the Japanese shipping industry to
investigate the feasibility of the NSR. This developed into JANSROP Phase II (2002-2005). The