Thursday, 15 July 2010

BIMCO objects to new Canadian rules on Arctic shipping.

Geopolitics in the frozen North?

The Canadian federal government's new rules regulating Arctic shipping, including in the Northwest Passage, have been criticised by the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO), the world’s largest private shipping organisation. BIMCO says that the mandatory registration system introduced by Canada on July 1 is "drastic" and a potential threat to the long-standing "right to innocent passage" on the world's oceans. It is learnt that the BIMCO objection has been sent in a formal letter to the federal government in Canada

BIMCO, based in Denmark, has as members companies that account for 65 per cent of the cargo shipped around the world, and so has tremendous influence worldwide and at the IMO. It is learnt that the organisation had requested Canada earlier to have its planned new Arctic regulatory regime vetted by a committee of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), but the appeal fell on deaf ears.

The new rules make registration with federal authorities mandatory for any ship greater than 300 tonnes transiting Canada's Arctic waters; additionally, they extend pollution control limits from the present 100 miles to 200 miles offshore.

BIMCO spokesperson Michael Lund hastens to point out that there was no question of it asking its members not to comply with the unilateral Canadian directives. "There will be compliance, and we are very much in favour of everybody contributing to a very safe environment in these Arctic waters," he says, but points out that "we would have liked to see this go to the IMO" before Transport Canada implemented the new regulations.

"Mandatory ship reporting systems represent an administrative burden to the ship's crew that can have safety implications," BIMCO had told Canada five months ago. It also said that an expansion of the geographical area covered by the new regulations "appears drastic," saying that restrictions placed on ships as a consequence of perceived non compliance "could be seen as effectively interfering with the right to innocent passage for ships as ensured by UNCLOS," the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Transport Canada, the body that has taken upon itself to regulate what it sees as its share of the Arctic, reiterates that "the waters in question are within the exclusive jurisdiction of Canada and there is no legal obligation to seek approval from the IMO."

As things stand now, Canada requires all ships entering the Northwest Passage to report to NORDREG, a registration system maintained by the coast guard. This move, first proposed two years ago, has been widely welcomed within the country and is seen as a way to reinforce sovereignty over waters that are becoming more navigable as sea ice melts.

However, there is wider geopolitics involved in the decision. The Arctic has long been considered international waters, with few countries recognising Canada's claims to the passage. The United States, with its large navy, has also expressed concerns about these new Canadian regulations. Analysts say that although five countries- Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States—share a border with the frozen Arctic, the race for control of the region may be hotting up. There are said to be huge oil, gas and other resources in the region, and the opening up of lucrative passages for trade and economic activity would greatly shorten the distances between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Canadian rules seem to be another step in the game for control of the frozen North.



  1. For canada it is no game protecting what is legally hers by law. Just because some countries are uninformed or indifferent to Canadas ownership will not stop canada from looking after what is sovereign territory or waters.Canada is not claiming what is not hers. She is only protecting what is hers by law. The USA needs to ratify UNCLOS and also needs to be honest with itself about what belongs to Canada both historically and by UNCLOS standards. I as a Canadian expect my Government to look after canadas north at least as well as it does in its south. No exceptions.

  2. Yes, Canada is playing a political game with a pecuniary motive. Cunningly, increasing the pollution control limit,by-passing the IMO, and 'Mandatory Registration' is nothing but a greedy move to destabilise the peace of Arctic Zone and it is against the UNCLOS rules as well. I think it will be appropriate to sanction different non tariff trade barriers on importing canadian productions or exporting to Canada, if Canada acts smart.

  3. With respect to your silly Canadian TRADE barriers, FYT.
    We have all the minerals and oil and fresh water you could think so who cares if we can't get Chinese toasters and other junk. It is our Arctic and not multi-nationals.