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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Shipping and Resources in the Arctic Ocean
The discovery meant that the long-sought passage around the top of North America was
at the time a dead end for super tankers and that the
, which had pioneered the
route less than a year before, could be the last as well as the first to make the run….One
tanker ripped open by a pingo…could disrupt the fragile ecological balance of much of
the Arctic (Canada Today, 1974: 4).
Canada claims full and unlimited jurisdiction over the archipelagic section of the route which was
declared part of Canadian internal waters, effective January 1986. The United States and later on the
EU have protested against this claim which they find illegal. According to the US government, the
NWP is an
international strait
open to international shipping on the basis of the principle of
without any interferences from the coastal state. Thus, when it comes to the legal status of
their respective passages, Canada and Russia are faced with the same legal and political opposition
(Østreng et al., 2012: Ch. 6). This disagreement surfaced in 1970 when Canada enacted the
Waters Pollution Prevention Act
(AWPPA) establishing a 100 nautical miles environmental zone north of
the Archipelago as a precautionary step to prevent ship-based pollution. At the time of enactment,
the Act was not part of accepted international ocean law. Thus, the U.S. government immediately
declared the Canadian move a violation of international law and a threat to the status of the NWP as
a strait open to international shipping. Diplomatic notes were exchanged and protests issued in both
directions. In the 1980s, the two parties calmed the disagreement and agreed to disagree. However,
in 2009 the USA restated her long-term opposition against the Canadian position, indicating that the
question of freedom of navigation is high on her political agenda and that national interests are at
stake if that freedom is curbed (US Presidential Directive, 2009).
Transit Sailings
Between 1903 and 2004 there have been 94 single transit passages by larger ships, 30 round trips and
27 recreational small boat passages (from Atlantic to Pacific waters or vice versa). Thus, counting
round trips as two passages, there have been 181 transits during the 101-year period and most of
these have been through the southern coastal route. On average, 1.7 transits have been conducted
per year in the course of 101 years. These voyages were undertaken by 67 vessels carrying 15
different flags. In the same period, 175 partial transits were recorded through the waters of the
archipelago (not going through the whole of the NWP, including the Beaufort Sea (AMTW, 2004: A-
20-A-21). A further brief examination of available data shows that transits of the passage remained a
fairly sporadic affair until the 1970s, up to which point only nine complete transits had been made.
In terms of flag activity, 63 per cent of transits between 1903-2004 were Canadian flag, mainly