The Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Arctic Policy and Economic Forum held a lively luncheon debate on the potential for new Arctic shipping routes and the possible impact on international shipping and trade, on June 17th. Speakers included H.E. Arif Havas Oegroseno, the ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the Kingdom of Belgium, the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, and the European Union; Simon C. Bergulf, head of the Brussels Representation at the Danish Shipowners’ Association; Josep A. Casanovas, administrator for Maritime Transport and Logistics at the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport of the European Commission; and Manubu Miyagawa, minister in the Economic Department at the Mission of Japan to the European Union. Introduced by Dr. Damien Degeorges, founder of the Arctic Policy and Economic Forum. Moderated by John Richardson, senior transatlantic fellow at GMF, the discussion included over 30 participants from various organizations in Brussels and detailed opportunities and obstacles facing the growth of Arctic shipping.
Although some view the opening of new Arctic shipping routes as a challenge to existing sea routes, the discussion raised the idea that alternative routes could offer an opportunity to lessen the burden of maintaining safety and security in current sea lanes. The theme of infrastructure to support maritime shipping remained prevalent throughout the debate. Many participants noted the considerable absence of this necessary infrastructure, ranging from radar and navigation systems to search and rescue operations in the Arctic region.
The event’s speakers also devoted significant attention to the need for an effective legal framework of safety and environmental standards to regulate Arctic shipping. Participants spoke of the on-going efforts at the International Maritime Organization to develop a Polar Code, which would establish compulsory guidelines for ships operating in the Arctic region. Although the possibility of Arctic shipping routes offers new opportunities for maritime commerce, the lunch discussion highlighted the need for continued research and international cooperation to foster Arctic shipping in a manner that is environmentally and economically viable.