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Arctic Yearbook 2012
The Future of Arctic Shipping Along the Transpolar Sea Route
Table 1 Maritime accessibility in 2000-2014 and 2045-2059 (Type A vessels
, July-September)
Adapted from Stephenson, S.R. Smith, L.C., Agnew, J.A., (2011), Divergent long-term trajectories of human
access to the Arctic.
Nature Climate Change.
156-160. doi: 10.1038/nclimate1120
While marine navigation in the Arctic will remain challenging due to the harsh environment the
transition of the Arctic Ocean into a navigable seaway is well under way and climatic and sea ice
conditions will continue to improve significantly over the next two decades.
International Legal Situation
The legal framework for the regulation of Arctic
shipping is set by the United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
and applicable customary international law
(VanderZwaag et. al. 2008).
UNCLOS balances
the different rights and responsibilities of states
in their capacities as coastal, port, and flag states
in the respective maritime zones. In contrast to
the NWP and the NSR, the TSR involves only
limited legal uncertainties or controversies.
As a
result “shipping companies might increasingly
focus on the possibility of routes straight across the Arctic Ocean, avoiding the problems stemming
from national jurisdictions” (Moe & Jensen, 2010: 5).
The 200 nm EEZ, measured from the state’s baseline, which is the low water line along the coast,
constitutes the most distant seaward area over which a coastal state exerts limited jurisdictional
The TSR, even if a more southerly route closer to the NSR is used, lies outside any Arctic
coastal state’s EEZ and is therefore considered high seas. Hence, neither the coastal state’s powers,
as stipulated in UNCLOS and other marine agreements, nor Article 234, the Convention’s “Arctic
exception clause”, apply to the TSR. In a report on governance of Arctic shipping by Dalhousie
University, VanderZwaag et al. state that “[T]ransiting shipment would
[emphasis added]