Ship traffic is increasing in the waters around Greenland. Climate change in the Arctic regions leads to retreating ice, especially during the summer period. This increases the general interest in visiting Greenland areas by cruise ships - areas that were impossible to navigate only a few years ago.
While climate change makes increased navigation possible in the area, there has been increased interest in using the resources found in the Arctic regions.
Retreating ice in the Arctic regions also makes it possible to use new ship's routes through the North-East and North-West Passages. This would shorten the distance travelled when carrying goods between Europe and Asia distinctly. Recent climate change prognoses indicate that, in the future, it will be possible to use the new routes during the summer months. Regardless of the climate change, Arctic waters will, however, still be characterised by weather conditions that make special requirements on ships navigating these areas. Account will still have to be taken of the presence of ice, low temperatures and extreme weather.
More traffic calls for new measures
Though it is difficult to predict climatic developments in the Arctic regions precisely, the Danish Maritime Authority estimates that the coming years will see increasing ship traffic in the local area. This traffic will primarily be by merchant ships to and from Greenland, but also by ships that will start using new Arctic shipping routes. Especially cruise ships are expected to explore new areas if conditions permit .This presents special challenges to safety of navigation.
The Greenland coastline has a length of approx. 44,000 kilometres. As in other Arctic countries, the coastline is scarcely populated and has a limited infrastructure at its disposal.
Therefore, it is decisive to launch preventive initiatives to ensure safety of navigation. Not least for cruise ships carrying many passengers, is it necessary to introduce preventive initiatives. The Danish Maritime Authority is working actively in United Nations' International Maritime Organization (IMO) for the introduction of globally binding regulations on navigation in polar areas in the form of the so-called Polar Code. The Danish Maritime Authority expects that the Polar Code will become effective in 2017. The Polar Code will stipulate requirements for ships' construction, stability, equipment, voyage planning as well as crew education and training, etc.
In dialogue with Greenland
In order to enhance safety of navigation in Greenland waters, the Danish Maritime Authority has engaged in dialogue with the Government of Greenland about the introduction of stricter requirements for passenger ships carrying more than 250 passengers and navigating Greenland waters. Safety of navigation is also on the agenda of the Arctic Council where a working group is, inter alia, investigating the possibilities of strengthening cooperation among the Arctic states on, inter alia, the exchange of information and experiences.