Arctic shipping legislation moving forward

Goal is to improve safety and reliability of maritime transportation in the Arctic region.

Arctic shipping legislation addressing impacts and opportunities of increased maritime traffic advanced out of the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, Dec. 11, heading to the floor of the Senate.

The legislation calls for the federal government to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the Arctic for maritime transportation by creating an advisory committee to study Arctic maritime transportation, including Arctic seaway development, and ensure that increased Arctic shipping proceeds safely and securely.

“Warming temperatures and diminishing sea ice are opening up shipping routes and changing the scope of the Arctic,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and a sponsor of the legislation.

“It’s imperative that we are not left behind as nations such as Russia, China and many more are taking interest in the region, As an Arctic nation, the U.S. must maintain its leadership role in this area of global importance.

“Advancing this bill to the full Senate today is an important step towards developing a strategic plan to support safe maritime transportation in the Arctic,” she said.

The measure is also sponsored by Commerce Committee chair Roger Wicker, R-MS; and Senators Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and Maria Cantwell, D-WA.

Nome Mayor Richard Beneville also expressed support for the legislation, in a statement released by Murkowski’s office.
“The city of Nome feels that it is critically important for the US to play a strong leadership role in the growing dynamics affecting American waters in the Arctic related to vessel traffic and maritime shipping,” Beneville said. “We sincerely appreciate Senator Murkowski’s hard work in all things Arctic and support the framework in the Arctic Shipping Federal Advisory Committee Act which will help to establish the foundation for securing America’s Arctic.”

The Arctic Shipping Federal Advisory Committee is tasked with developing policy recommendations to enhance the nation’s leadership role in improving the safety and reliability of maritime transportation in the Arctic region.

Committee members include 15 individuals representing federal agencies, the states of Alaska and Washington, Alaska Native tribes, coastal communities, subsistence co-management groups and representatives of the shipping sector.  The committee is tasked with studying options for Arctic shipping, including construction, operation and maintenance of current and future maritime infrastructure needs, including deepwater ports, for vessels transiting the Arctic sea routes.

The committee is to submit a report no later than two years after enactment of this legislation, with its recommendations to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Murkowski’s office said.