As the polar ice cap recedes shipping via the northern sea route (NSR) to Asia, and oil and gas exploration in the Arctic were high on the agenda at Nor-Shipping 2013.
“Norway is an Arctic nation,” Trond Griske, Norway’s minister for trade and industry stated at the opening conference.
Griske noted that a voyage using the NSR from Rotterdam to Shanghai was 3,000 km shorter than the normal route via the Suez Canal. Last year saw 46 successful transits of the NSR compared to just four in 2010.
“We need a regulation system for these activities,” Giske said. “I want to encourage everyone to work for better regulation at IMO.” The NSR has long stretches without any infrastructure and capabilities such as search and rescue.
“We have to know shipping activities in this region are quite different.” Giske commented that seamanship would be crucial.
The minister’s views were echoed by industry executives. Claus Hemmingson, partner and member of the board of AP Moller – Maersk said: “We put a lot of faith in the IMO and the Polar Code – hopefully in 2014.”
Sturla Henriksen, director general, Norwegian Shipowners’ Association said an stronger regulatory framework was needed.
The Arctic is also in focus for oil and gas exploration with up to an estimated 20% of undiscovered oil and gas reserves in the region.
“Resources are abundant in the Arctic,” said Giske.
Speaking at the agenda offshore conference on Wednesday Statoil ceo Helge Lund said: “Statoil has been positioning itself for long term growth in the Arctic.
“The full potential of the Arctic can only be unlocked through innovation.”
Given the complexities and difficulties of operating in the region Lund said “there was no margin for error” and there was a need for oil spill response.