Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Strengthening Canada's claim to maritime arctic sovereignty

The government is turning to the Canadian Coast Guard, in this case at least (guess what paper ran this story on their website):
TUKTOYAKTUK, Northwest Territories --
Canada's prime minister moved to firm up control of disputed Arctic waters Wednesday by announcing stricter registration requirements for ships sailing in the Northwest Passage.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said all ships sailing into the Canadian Arctic will be required to report to NORDREG, the Canadian Coast Guard agency that tracks vessels on such journeys. Such registration is currently voluntary.

Canada's control of the Northwest Passage is widely disputed internationally, including by the United States and the European Union. Most countries consider the passage to be international waters [emphasis added].

Global warming has raised the stakes in the scramble for sovereignty in the Arctic because shrinking polar ice could someday open up resource development and new shipping lanes.

The rapid melting of ice has raised speculation that the Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans could one day become a regular shipping lane. This summer has seen record traffic by cruise ships and pleasure craft in the Arctic.

The fabled Northwest Passage runs from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Arctic archipelago. Early European explorers sought the passage as a shorter route to Asia, but found it rendered inhospitable by ice and weather.

Ships currently must register with NORDREG to gain access to Canadian Coast Guard information on weather and ice conditions and the great majority of them do. Private pleasure craft, however, usually don't. In the past, some cruise ships also have sailed into the passage without telling the coast guard.

It wasn't immediately clear how the new requirements would be enforced
[emphasis added], nor did Harper spell out sanctions for failing to register.

Harper has recently been hinting at a fall election and Arctic sovereignty is expected to become a major plank in the his election platform...

Canada also has vowed to increase its icebreaker fleet [but not by much - MC]...
And we're conducting major multi-agency exercises.


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