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News

MAST 2009 to address ?The Arctic Situation?


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MAST
: 11 December, 2008  (New Product)
Within its established topics of Maritime Security, Operations & Capabilities, Platforms, Systems and Technologies (from integrated systems, surface and undersea perspectives), MAST 2009 will take the opportunity of being located in Stockholm to address developing Arctic region challenges.
MAST offers the perfect event (at the perfect time) to tackle this relatively unexplored theme, therefore, the MAST committee will be tasked with integrating the ‘guest/strategic’ theme into the established MAST format and topics, when it meets in January.

The theme is likely to consider the challenges and opportunities arising as a consequence of the increased pace of melting polar ice, including national security, geopolitics, global trade, energy, shipping, fishery and the environment…

Countries bordering the Arctic region (e.g. Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and United States) have all laid claim to new sea routes and portions of the Arctic seabed outside their own continental shelves for shipping, fishery, tourism, and not least the development of natural resources: the region’s huge undiscovered oil and natural-gas reserves (an estimated quarter of the world’s remaining deposits), copper, iron ore, cobalt, nickel, diamonds, gold, and high-grade manganese.

However, the prospects of regular Arctic operations are daunting (and expensive) for all players: search-and-rescue operations and pollution control are particularly difficult given the area’s remoteness and lack of infrastructure and access to major ports.

Compared with the rest of the globe, the region remains essentially uncharted… for now: new navigable waterways in the region will bring about the largest shift in global sea routes in modern history and the ensuing increase in shipping, mining, and drilling activity will pose new environmental and safety risks.

“It’s no longer a matter of if but when the Arctic Ocean will be open to regular marine transportation and exploration” – Scott Borgerson, Council on Foreign Relations, New York, USA

With a significant increase in naval vessels and merchant ships plying Arctic waters over the past two years competition in the region is heating up: Russia has already planted its flag in the seabed beneath the North Pole, and Canada intends to build several Arctic patrol vessels, a deep-water port, and a cold-weather training center.

Numerous new national security implications are posed by the new Arctic situation, as countries involved increase their maritime presence to protect national interests in the region, and ensure international access to/rights of passage through the new waters (and prevent adversaries from intrusions into national areas of interest).

The lack of a broad legal structure for regional development makes the situation unsettled: a free-for-all in a vast water-and-land mass that is changing almost daily. Whilst the Law of the Sea Convention can tackle many of these issues, it is powerless to deal with others, from military activities to environmental problems. The situation eventually could descend into armed conflict – or at least an Arctic Cold War.
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