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Arctic Yearbook 2012
basis. Longer active shipping seasons along the NWP raise a number of service level issues for the
governments of both Canada, the United States and even Denmark/Greenland (Østreng et al., 2012:
Ch. 5).
The AMSA report makes three important conclusions when it comes to the future economic
attraction of the NWP: (1) despite climate changes, the NWP will continue to be controlled by ice
conditions at multiple choke points; (2) it may be years before the Canadian Arctic matches the
resources extracted when compared with Alaska or the Russian Arctic; (3) other transit routes are
more attractive compared with the NWP. A fourth point may be added: ice conditions are widely
expected to improve more rapidly in Russia’s NSR than in the Canadian Archipelago. Eight out of 15
ship owners favour the NEP and the NSR to the NWP because the former “has better
infrastructures, more local ports to service and more mining and oil and gas operations” (Lasserre
and Pelletier, 2011: 1469). In fact, this is one reason why most of the “pioneer commercial transit” to
date have been through the NEP rather than the NWP.
The Transpolar Passage
Transpolar routes outside of national jurisdiction in the Arctic Ocean cover all waters that are part of
the High Seas and where the freedom of navigation applies. This definition includes two sections of
water expanses: the first is the Central Arctic Basin, which is 4.7 million sq km in area. Here, coastal
states have no jurisdiction at all apart from the flag state jurisdiction they exercise over their own
ships and crews. The second section includes all ocean areas beyond the territorial seas of 12 nautical
miles and within the outer limits of the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zones (EEZ). This belt
is 188 nautical miles in extension measured outwards from the outer limits of the territorial sea.
Here, coastal state rights and obligations mix with the rights and obligations of all other states. In
this belt the coastal states have sovereign rights over certain issue areas, among them over the
exploration and exploitation, conservation and management of natural resources – living and non-
living – on and in the seabed and in the water column above. The coastal states also exercise rights to
adopt and enforce non-discriminatory laws and regulations for the prevention, reduction and control
of marine pollution from vessels in those areas that are ice-covered within the limits of the EEZ. In
the ice-covered areas of these stretches, Article 234 of UNCLOS provides coastal states with some
additional powers to apply pollution regulations. At the same time, Article 87 of the same
Convention claims these waters to be part of the High Sea, guaranteeing the freedom of navigation
to coastal and land-locked countries alike. This belt is where coastal state jurisdiction meets with the