Willy Østreng is President of the Norwegian Scientific Academy for Polar Research.
Shipping and Resources in the Arctic Ocean: A Hemispheric
With the melting of Arctic sea ice as a result of climate changes, there has been an intensification of interest, and use, of
Arctic waters for shipping. This article seeks to do two things: first, define and compare the transport passages of the
Arctic Ocean on the basis of their geographical features, natural conditions, political significance, and legal
characteristics displaying their distinctions, interrelations and eventual overlaps focusing on the Northeast Passage, of
which the Northern Sea Route is the main part; the Northwest Passage; and the Trans Polar Passage. And second, to
discuss how Arctic passages connect or may connect to world markets through transport corridors in southern waters.
The article concludes by examining the more likely prospects for Arctic shipping in the short, medium and long term.
It is claimed that the most important contribution of geopolitics to the analysis of foreign policy
stems from the
pedagogic of the strategic atlas:
how world images of states are conditioned by their own
geographical location and horizon; how technological changes transform the strategic significance of
an area; and how supply lines for energy and mineral resources tie regions together displaying their
vulnerabilities as well as their interdependencies (Østerud 1996: 325). The geographical area
addressed in this article is the
space of the Arctic Ocean
which can only be adequately understood if the
strategic atlas for the region is further specified and supplemented. In terms of location the Arctic
Ocean is situated in between three continents; it is assumed to be abundantly rich in oil and gas; and
its sea ice regime is dwindling due to global warming.
Within this geopolitical context, the purpose of this article is twofold: first, to define and compare
the transport passages of the Arctic Ocean on the basis of their geographical features, natural
conditions, political significance, and legal characteristics displaying their distinctions, interrelations