Taking effect Dec. 1, 2018, the six two-way routes and six precautionary areas are the first internationally recognized ship routing measures the IMO has approved for polar waters.
In November 2017, the U.S. and Russia proposed a system of two-way routes for vessels to follow in the Bering Strait and Bering Sea in response to increased shipping traffic there.
“We have observed a steady increase in Arctic shipping activities over the last decade, and these routing measures were jointly developed in response to this increased activity,” said Mike Sollosi, the chief of the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Standards Division.
Located in U.S. and Russian territorial waters off the coasts of Alaska and the Chukotskiy Peninsula, the routes are designed to help mariners avoid shoals, reefs and islands and to reduce the potential for marine casualties and environmental disasters.
The routes are voluntary for all domestic and international ships and do not limit commercial fishing or subsistence activities.
“This is a big step forward as the U.S. Coast Guard continues
to work together with international, interagency and maritime stakeholders to make our waterways safer, more efficient and more resilient,” said Sollosi.
This joint proposal was developed from a Port Access Route Study of Bering Strait marine traffic, submitted by the Seventeenth Coast Guard District in 2017. This study reflects almost a decade of consultation with international, interagency, industry, and private stakeholders, and extensive coordination with community residents along the coasts of Alaska.
The Coast Guard has been a key participant at the IMO for all policy development since the IMO Convention entered into force over 50 years ago, and leads the U.S. Delegation to the Maritime Safety Committee, Marine Environment Protection Committee, and various sub-committees. In this capacity, the Coast Guard represents the U.S. position on numerous regulatory issues within the international commercial maritime industry, including piracy and maritime security, greenhouse gas emissions, human element, ballast water management, and passenger vessel safety.