By Brian Dunn

The 6th Arctic Shipping Summit being held March 18-19 in Montreal at the Westin Hotel will cover a myriad of topics on developments in Arctic shipping operations and infrastructure.

Produced by Active Communications International (ACI), a U.K.-based conference planning organization, the summit will focus on technological, operational and logistical challenges encountered by shipowners in harsh Arctic conditions. It will also address key developments in transport, and regulations in the Arctic as well as commercial, communications and safety issues. Particular emphasis will be placed on evaluating potential opportunities in the region. In addition, the summit will examine practical solutions to Arctic shipping issues.

According to ACI, the summit is expected to attract shipowners and operators, shipbuilders, shipyards and repair companies, coastguard and transport authorities, in addition to energy and mining companies, ice forecasters and meteorologists, among other organizations.

Key topics include placing the Arctic in a global context, LNG and the future of Arctic shipping, the potential of the offshore Arctic market, improving satellite coverage in the Arctic and its impact on search and rescue and identifying the Arctic’s global impact.

One of the speakers, Joe Cox, President, Chamber of Shipping of America, will discuss the basics of what shipping must do to be safe and protect the environment in sailing the Arctic. “I think the main message … is the need for extreme care. This is not one of those business decisions that are made just because it can be done. The additional risks associated with sailing in the Arctic mean commensurate additional care including ship protection, availability of search and rescue, trained mariners, very good navigation methods and so on.”

Frank Boman, Director of Operations, Aerospace & Marine International Corp., San Jose, CA, a provider of marine weather information and services, will touch on Trans-Arctic weather routing, notably Arctic weather systems, winds, seas and currents and weather forecasting reliability.

Gregory Smith, a research scientist at Environment Canada, will be providing an overview of the World Weather Research Program’s Polar Prediction Project (PPP) and the upcoming 2017-2019 Year of Polar Prediction (YOPP). The World Weather Research Program has established the PPP whose mission is to promote cooperative international research enabling development of improved weather and environmental prediction services for the Polar Regions. “In the past, most forecasts were done at the mid-latitude level where most of us live,” Mr. Smith explained. “This project (PPP) aims to improve weather predictions in Polar Regions.”

The topic of search and rescue will be addressed by Jack Gallagher, National Executive, Maritime Division of Halifax-based Company of Master Mariners. He plans to discuss a study by the National Research Council Canada which shows how long it actually takes to get rescued in the Arctic after help arrives by aircraft, helicopter or ship. “The study looked at eight different locations across the Arctic to see if rescue time was location dependent. The quick answer is yes.” Mr. Gallagher will also touch on the international agreement signed by members of the Arctic Council and what it means in terms of search and rescue capabilities in the region.

A European perspective will be offered by Petter Meier, Deputy Director General, Norwegian Ministry of Transportation and Communications, who will look at marine safety and environmental protection challenges in the Arctic. “I will likely be offering some reflections on developments in the High North and their implications for the environment, before outlining the current Norwegian policy for preventing maritime accidents and spills…and will present a few examples of newly introduced risk-reducing measures in Norwegian waters. “Due to Norway’s geographical location with a long coastline versus the Arctic, I think it could be of relevance to focus on how we actually are handling the challenges related to acute marine pollution.” Mr. Meier also plans to share some thoughts on the importance of international cooperation in the field of oil spill prevention, preparedness and response, while highlighting “the ongoing efforts under the auspices of the Arctic Council.” Turning to other challenges facing the Arctic, Mr. Meier cautioned that “we should be sober when speaking about the climate changes and what these changes could possibly imply when it comes to new shipping lanes across the Central Polar Sea.”

Peter Sköld, Professor and Director, Arctic Research Centre, Umeå University, Sweden, and the new President of the International Arctic Social Science Association, plans to address the main challenges for Arctic social science research. He will also discuss globalization and governance and address the human dimension of Arctic politics and research. “The Arctic Shipping Summit is very important since it brings a group of stakeholders together that is very important for the future development of the Arctic and it is crucial for researchers to find ways for constructive communications with such a target group.”