3rd Polar Shipping Summit – London, May 30-31, 2012

EU Arctic Forum’s Secretary General Steffen Weber opening the Summit highlighted the critical need for increased communication between the private and public sector to ensure a careful and sustainable development of a new era of Arctic shipping.

On May 30-31, representatives from some of the preeminent commercial stakeholders in the field of Arctic shipping gathered in London, for the 3rd Polar Shipping Summit.

The summit included updates on the development of Arctic shipping capabilities in general and the evolution of the Polar Code; on offshore oil and gas activity; search and rescue (SAR); development and use of the Northern Sea Route (NSR); ice charting; and Asian interests in the Arctic. Among the highlights of the summit were talks given by Arctia Shipping President and CEO Tero Vauraste, Maersk Line Director of Operations and Deployment Erik Rabjerg Nielsen, and Russian Ambassador at Large and Senior Arctic Official Anton Vasiliev. EU Arctic Forum’s Secretary General Steffen Weber served as moderator for the first day, kicking off the event by giving the opening address.

Tero Vauraste of Arctia Shipping mined his company’s strong experience in Arctic and Baltic Sea operations to deliver a current overview of the Arctic shipping landscape, from the Bering Straits to the Canadian arctic coast, the NSR to the Baltic Sea. Tero Vauraste underlined the recent increase in tonnage transported across the board in these regions, and what that will mean for maritime transportation companies as changing ice conditions drive a move towards fleet overhauls to meet the expected demand for ice-capable vessels.

Of course, the bottom line for shipping executives is whether investing in polar shipping can turn a profit. Erik Rabjerg Nielsen addressed this question here when he presented a Maersk Line analysis of the current advantages/disadvantages of sailing the NSR.

Representing the largest container shipping line in the world, Erik Rabjerg showed that in its current state, the NSR is a costly alternative considering the lack of infrastructure, proper insurance coverage, necessary vessel outfitting, etc. – but that the prospect of cutting shipping time by up to 40 percent and all but eliminating piracy threats keep this option attractive, on the table, and worthy of further exploration.

Guests at the summit had the privilege of hearing a presentation presentation by Russia’s Senior Arctic Official and Ambassador at Large Anton Vasiliev. Ambassador Vasiliev arrived from a meeting of regional chairmen in Moscow, and shared with the audience the enthusiasm shown by the chairmen of the Russian Arctic regions for the NSR infrastructure modernization project already underway. One of the cornerstones of President Putin’s domestic policy, Vasiliev emphasized that improving the NSR through updated infrastructure, better government control and simplifying navigation would go a long way in meeting many of the basic needs expressed by shipping companies considering use of the NSR. To this end, the Ambassador announced that provision of the minimum basic services necessary to sustain year-round Arctic shipping operations on the NSR would be available starting in 2014!

The summit brought to the forefront the prominence of commercial interest in a rapidly changing Arctic environment, and the critical need for increased communication/coordination between the private sector and state entities to ensure a careful and fruitful transition to this new era of Arctic shipping – a message articulated in Mr. Weber’s opening address to the summit.

Stephen Perry
Junior Research Fellow EUAF

See selected presentations:
Hauke Siert, Senior Sales Manager, Nordic Yards

Joe Spears, Principal, Horseshoe Bay Marine Group

Nick Hughes, Leader of the Norwegian Ice Service

Paul Arthur Berkman, Research Professor, Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management – University of California Santa Barbara

Reece Pitts, Account Manager EMEA, Iridium Satellite



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