The midnight sun shines over the ice covered waters near Resolute bay at 1:30am as seen from the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent Saturday, July 12, 2008. The Louis is on its annual voyage through Canada’s Arctic that includes patrols through the Northwest Passage. Environmental groups are applauding what they call a trend among international shippers and shipping companies to voluntarily promise to stay away from controversial Arctic routes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

More shippers and shipping companies promise to avoid Arctic routes

So far, 21 companies that either ship goods internationally or carry those goods have signed

Environmental groups are applauding international shippers and shipping companies that have voluntarily promised to stay away from controversial Arctic routes.

“We were really excited to get this pledge together,” said Dan Hubbell of the Ocean Conservancy, which is co-ordinating the campaign.

So far, 21 companies that either ship goods internationally or carry those goods have signed.

That means signatories that produce consumer goods — including Nike, Puma, Columbia and Ralph Lauren — will ensure their products aren’t shipped along routes that go through Arctic waters.

Shippers, which include global giants such as Kuehne + Nagel and Hapag-Lloyd, won’t send their own vessels along those lanes or arrange for others to ply them.

Hubbell said the signatories control about one-third of the shipping industry by market share.

That’s 1,366 ships and three of the top five shipping companies in the world.

That’s worth celebrating, Hubbell said.

“The Arctic is both unique and uniquely vulnerable. We’re still a long ways away from having any support infrastructure or rapid response if we have a spill.”

The impact of shipping on Arctic ecosystems, animals such as beluga whales, narwhal and walrus, as well as Indigenous communities is largely unknown. Ice and periods of 24-hour darkness add to the hazards of northern seas.

Arctic shipping remains in its infancy, but it has been growing at a rate of about six per cent a year, said Greg Fiske, a researcher at the Woods Hole oceanographic institution in Massachusetts.

“Ships are increasing,” he said. ”Mostly, it’s the Russians.”

VIDEO: Chill with polar bears through an Arctic live cam

Just over half of all vessels in the Arctic are Russian, Fiske found. They are traversing the Northern Sea Route that Russia has been developing over recent years along its northern coast.

Fiske counted about 3,100 commercial vessels in Arctic waters in 2016, the vast majority on the Northern Sea Route. About half are cargo vessels of some type: from oil tankers to bulk shippers. The rest are for passengers, supplies or fishing.

“We also found that smaller ships are increasing faster than larger ships,” Fiske said. “It’s the smaller ships that are a big worry for policy-makers because they have a greater risk.”

He expects it will be hard to persuade shippers to stay away from the Arctic as climate change shrinks the ice cover that has kept it in frozen isolation.

“You’re opening up a brand new ocean and it’s going to be pretty difficult to keep folks from using it.”

Hubbell said the no-use promise can make a difference — especially since it’s part of a larger campaign against other environmental threats to the area such as heavy fuel oil, a big source of greenhouse gases as well as black carbon.

“I think it’s important for us to send a signal,” he said.

“It’s exciting to see the narrative shift. Changes in the Arctic aren’t some magical economic opportunity here — it’s evidence of a real tragedy.

“We hope other companies will sign on.”

READ MORE: ‘Not what it used to be:’ Warm Arctic autumn creates ice hazards for Inuit

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Classic cars make a stop in Chilliwack during Brogan’s Ride Against Cancer

With the weather cooperating, more classics than expected hit the road for the fundraiser

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

PHOTOS: Cat owners in Chilliwack celebrate National Kitten Day

Chilliwack Progress readers share photos of their favourite felines on National Kitten Day

Child falls down Bridal Veil Falls near Chilliwack, crews on scene

An 11-year-old boy fell over the falls about 25 to 30 feet and has suffered a head injury

Foodies flock to drive-thru food truck fest in Chilliwack

The Greater Vancouver Food Truck Festival takes place this weekend at Chilliwack Heritage Park

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

Woman sexually assaulted, robbed near Surrey SkyTrain station: RCMP

Police say the incident happened July 10, just after 11 p.m. near King George SkyTrain station

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Once-in-a-lifetime comet photographed soaring over Abbotsford

Photographer Randy Small captures Comet NEOWISE in early-morning sky

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

Most Read