Management of Arctic Marine Transportation: A Canadian Perspective


  • D.M. McRae



Marine transportation, Sovereignty, Canadian Arctic Islands waters, Northwest Passage


Canada's interest in the management of the waters of the arctic archipelago has generally been expressed in terms of sovereignty. This term covers a range of interests including security, environmental protection and the protection of the way of life of northern communities, and resource exploitation. Three types of regimes can be proposed for the management of arctic marine transportation - a regime of free and open use with control over shipping remaining with the flag state of each vessel; a regime of shared jurisdiction under which arctic coastal states would jointly manage transportation throughout arctic waters, including the Northwest Passage; and a regime of coastal state jurisdiction, under which each coastal state would be responsible for all transportation in its adjacent waters. Under this last regime Canada would assume control over all marine transportation in the Northwest Passage. While a free and open use regime would favour transit interests, it would not deal adequately with environmental protection, the protection of northern communities or resource exploitation interests. In these latter matters there is an imbalance between the interests of Canada and the interests of other states concerned predominantly with transit. Canada has therefore laid the basis for complete coastal state control over the waters of the arctic archipelago with the drawing of straight baselines around these waters. This does not exclude a cooperative management regime; rather, it establishes a particular basis on which such a regime would operate. Thus, an effective management regime for marine transportation in the waters of the Canadian arctic archipelago will only be worked out once the question of jurisdiction over those waters is finally resolved.

Key words: arctic archipelago, sovereignty, Canada-U.S. relations, environmental protection, security, management, jurisdiction, Northwest Passage