Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Holistic Approach to Developing The Arctic Waters

Earlier I posted a thread on Conoco researching ice loads on tankers. Now in a recent article in the Petroleum News, Conoco chief naval architect Peter Noble told an audience "We really need to look at the Arctic in a holistic way.”

Interesting word, holistic. What does he mean?

"...There are a lot of issues around the environment,” he explained. “There are local inhabitants that need to be considered as a high priority. They live there; it’s their backyard."

The environment....

In May of 2008, the Calgary Herald had an article that was titled:

Study of Arctic oil and gas show bonanza for Russia

The article briefly mentions Russia sending conflicting messages on resolving Arctic seabed boundaries and because of that, Canada has introduced legislation that strengthens its sovereignty over Arctic waters.

A leading Canadian expert on circumpolar politics is praising the Conservative government for strengthening the country's control over its Arctic waters through environmental legislation that came into force last week.

The measures, which received royal assent on June 11, extend Canadian authority over Arctic shipping by an additional 100 nautical miles - about 185 kilometres - beyond the current 100-mile control zone in waters off Canada's northern coastline.

There is good reason for Canada's action. As I stated in previous threads on the Governor's choice for Attorney General for Alaska, questions should be asked of the prospective Attorney General about his stance on the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty.

It is well known that Russia under the treaty will dominate the Arctic region and as such, Canada has recognized this by strengthening their laws to protect themselves even though their position was to ratify the treaty.

University of Calgary political scientist Rob Huebert - an advocate for greater investment in Canada's capacity to assert Arctic sovereignty, but also a critic of some Conservative policies in the North - applauded the move.

"I think it's outstanding that we've finally gotten a government that is willing to actually make (the Act) what it's supposed to be: a clear expression of Canadian control over its Arctic waters," he told Canwest News Service on Thursday. "At the heart of it, that's what the sovereignty issue in the Northwest Passage is all about. . . . This shows we're in control."

Huebert said the legislation is particularly important when combined with another Conservative initiative aimed at making mandatory - under the federal NORDREG system - the registration of foreign ships passing through Canadian Arctic waters.

When it comes to exploration, as I stated, the polar bear issue will affect Canada and Alaska. Not Russia.

The habitat of the polar bear is sea ice and when it comes to a "holistic" approach on the development of the Arctic, the polar bear habitat will come into play, under the LOS Treaty.

Research of the environment, sea ice and ratifying the LOS treaty may make the Gulf of Mexico look more profitable when it comes to developing gas hydrates. Thus leaving the Arctic waters off the shores of Alaska undeveloped.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, an icebreaker based in Seattle, Wash., breaks ice in support of scientific research in the Arctic Ocean. New Tory party measures extending Canadian authority over Arctic shipping by an additional 100 nautical miles beyond the current 100-mile control zone in waters off Canada's northern coastline are being praised Thursday bu Arctic specialist Rob Huebert.
Herald Archive

To make this argument, on sea ice, Senator Kerry's comments on ratifying the treaty should cause the Palin administration to pause.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) is crafting a strategy to ratify the long-stalled Law of the Sea Treaty this year -- a move that ocean and foreign policy experts say is increasingly important as climate change reshapes the Arctic.

Kerry said this week that he is working to find time for a hearing and votes on the treaty, which governs navigation, fishing, economic development and environmental standards on the open seas.

"I hope we're ready to ratify it. I am going to do everything in my power, but I want to do it on the right schedule," Kerry told reporters. "We're sort of working through that process carefully."

His remarks came after a "roundtable" that the Foreign Relations Committee hosted to get advice on the Arctic from experts on the region, ocean conservation advocates and foreign policy strategists. Among the panelists' many recommendations to address the drastic changes in the Arctic economy and ecosystem, they listed the Law of the Sea as paramount.

"The sea ice is melting faster than policy can keep up with it," said Scott Borgerson, a former Coast Guard instructor who is now a visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "First and foremost, my strongest recommendation is to finally get on with it -- it is high time that the U.S. finally accedes to the Law of the Sea."

He added: "At all the conferences we go to we have to defend -- and it's impossible to defend, why the U.S. is not party to this treaty."

More than 150 other nations have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. U.S. leaders have signed onto the agreement and the George W. Bush administration supported it, but several Senate conservatives have stymied its ratification.

Becoming a party to the 25-year-old international treaty would allow the United States to claim rights to mineral-rich portions of the Arctic seafloor. Experts told the Foreign Relations Committee that will be even more important as nations rush to make new claims in the Arctic.

"It is very clear the U.S. has to be a part of the Law of the Sea," said David Carlson, director of the International Polar Year program office.

Recent studies have shown that Arctic sea ice has receded rapidly in recent years, leading to concerns about conflicts over environmental protection, control of recently opened waterways and access to natural resources as nations scramble to exploit the resource-rich region.

Nations bordering the Arctic are already making claims on the oil, gas and mineral-rich territory, but several disputes have already arisen over competing claims and witnesses warned lawmakers that more disputes would likely arise if stronger international policies are not developed.

Take note on the reference made to sea ice. This is your "holistic" approach...

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