The Norwegian Government Perspective on Arctic Shipping

Innlegg ved statssekretær Dilek Ayhan, Arctic Shipping Breakfast Seminar 18. juni 2014 Washington, D.C. USA

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[Foil 1: Introfoil]


Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning:

It’s a pleasure to be here in Washington, D.C. taking part in interesting discussions on Arctic shipping and to give you the perspectives of the Norwegian government on these issues.

I want to thank Ambassador Kaare Aas and his team, as well as DNV GL for hosting this event today.

Hopefully, we are continuing in the steps of our proud polar history.


[Foil 2: Roald Amundsen]

The Norwegian Arctic explorer Roald Amundsen – the first man to reach the South Pole in 1911, once said:

Adventure is just bad planning”

As politicians, we seldom seek adventure for our economies and societies.

Like Amundsen, we prefer good planning.

And we always strive to be prepared – also for the unpredictable.

But first and foremost, we focus on preparing for developments we can actually predict, and the ones we see unfolding today.


[Foil 3: Norges nordområdevisjon]

The High North is the Norwegian government’s number one foreign policy priority.

Our goal is to ensure peaceful, sustainable and a prosperous development in this region – through increased activity, presence and knowledge. As a responsible flag and coastal state, it is important for us to balance the opportunities and challenges in a safe and environmentally sound way.

The current goverment has not been in office too long. It took office in October last year. We recently announced that we will launch a Maritime Strategy in one year’s time, and I can already reveal that shipping in the Arctic will be one of the priorities.

Norway’s vision for the High North has four pillars: 

  • integrated, ecosystem-based sustainable management of resources;
  • safeguarding peace and stability;
  • strengthening international cooperation, and;
  • strengthening the basis for value creation.


[Foil 4: USA og Arktis]

The US is also strengthening its engagement in the Arctic. It’s a most welcome development.

Let me start by giving credit to congressman Rick Larsen and the Friends of Norway Caucus for doing an important and tremendous job in turning the attention to Arctic policies.

Since last year, a number of strategies and reports on the Arctic have been presented here in the United States -- not only from the White House, but also several  other Federal Agencies.

The US Department of Defence for instance: The Pentagon’s report takes into account the possibilities and challenges that the melting of polar ice caps presents.

As Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel stated: “We must adjust our capabilities to meet new global realities”.  These new global realities reflect a global interest in the Arctic.

Less ice opens up for more activity and new commercial opportunities – not least for shipping and petroleum activities.

And that is what we will talk about this morning:


[Foil 5: Nordøstpassasjen]

First, we are seeing new opportunities for Arctic shipping. First, because of the potential opening of new sea; 

Last year, as many as 71 ships passed through the Northern Sea Route, compared to only six in 2010.[1]

This is a low number compared to the Suez Canal. But going forward, we know that the Northern Sea Route could reduce sailing time from Yokohama to Rotterdam by 40 percent.

Fuel costs could be lowered by as much as 20 percent.


[Foil 6: Ressurser i nord]

Second –- the vast opportunities in everything from minerals to more offshore oil and gas activity in the High North create need for more and advanced maritime services;

  • Much of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas resources are believed to be in the Arctic. Thus, we expect petroleum investments to increase sharply the coming years.
  • Some of the richest and best-preserved fish stocks in the world are swimming in the Arctic.
  • In addition, more than 10 000 marine organisms are found in Norwegian territorial waters.
  • And finally, researchers assume that there are mineral resources valued to billions of dollars in the deep sea between Svalbard and Jan Mayen.

All these activities will increase the demand for maritime services.


[Foil 7: Samarbeid Arktisk Råd og IMO]

These are opportunities, but there are also substantial challenges:

Nowhere else are the signs of a changing climate more visible than in the Arctic. 

Temperatures are rising – almost twice as fast as in the rest of the world.

Ice caps are retreating, and ice shelves are collapsing.

One of the people who have experienced these changes first hand is the polar explorer, Børge Ousland, who is here today. In 2010 he and his group were the first to sail around the North Pole during one season.

The Arctic is without a doubt a vulnerable environment and the increase in shipping traffic and activity may pose a risk.

Extreme weather conditions, periodic darkness, insufficient nautical charting and communications systems and ice-covered waters - they all constitute constant challenges.

We must strive to find common solutions to these challenges for shipping in the North. It is only through international cooperation and joint-action we can ensure a sustainable development and management of this region.

The Arctic Council has an important role in the High North policy discussions. It is the only international body where all the eight Arctic states are members.

The Arctic Council must continue to play an important role in finding solutions to the challenges.

The United States is a key member, and will take over the Arctic Council Chairmanship from spring next year. We look forward to continuing our excellent relationship with the United States in the Arctic.

Furthermore, the industry itself is also addressing the possibilities and challenges of operating in Arctic waters. I would like to mention the Arctic Business Council that will meet in Bodø in October for the first time.

Let me also mention the US, Canadian and Norwegian “Trans-Atlantic Science Week, which this year will focus on the Arctic region. One of the sessions will be dedicated to Arctic Maritime activities. So save the date: October 27 and 28, in Toronto! We hope to see many of you there.

And while I’m into marketing: Remember NOR-Shipping in Norway next summer - the world’s largest event for the maritime industry. 


Important cooperation is also taking place in other areas.

The adoption of a legal instrument specific to this region; the Polar Code will be an important development as a global standard setter. Also here I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the United States Coast Guard for our excellent cooperation in the IMO on this important issue.

The work to ensure adequate training for officers and crew on board ships operating in Polar waters is crucial to safety.

I am happy to see progress made on this issue in IMO, and hope to see the finalisation of global mandatory training requirements as soon as possible.

Due to the particular vulnerability of Arctic Waters and the expected increase in shipping traffic, it is very important to ensure improved map coverage.

There are few alternatives to satellites as regards maritime monitoring, communication and navigation needs.


[Foil 8: Avslutningsfoil]

My main message to you this morning is this: the High North represents significant possibilities for the world’s maritime and offshore industries. We are also faced with challenges that we need to adress together.

We welcome more international attention to High North issues.

Through international cooperation, Norway will continue to work for the highest standards and preparedness for more activity

Thank you for your attention and wish you good luck with this seminar.



[1] Frithjof Nansen Institute