How would environmental regulation in the Arctic affect the potential of Arctic shipping routes?

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Bartlett Sch of Env, Energy & Resources


With increasingly pressing concerns about the rising average global temperature and its correlation with CO2 emissions, there is a wide international agreement that action must be taken to mitigate the effects of climate change. Whilst there are ongoing disputes about the main cause of the increasing temperatures, what is certain is that the Arctic ice cap is melting. With changing sea ice conditions, it is predicted that by the middle of the 21st century, new trade routes will be opened such as the NSR (Northern Sea Route) and will possibly be navigable with common cargo ships (Smith, Laurence C. and Stephenson, Scott R. (2013)). This is significant as it can shorten sailing distances by up to 40% from Europe to Asia compared to traditional routes, e.g. via the Suez Canal), (Liu, Maojiu and Kronback, Jacob, 2009). I would like to address what is a significant gap in contemporary literature on modelling how environmental regulation would affect the potential for Arctic shipping routes.
Contemporary significance
The Arctic circle has been at the forefront of geopolitical discussion for some time. The impending scramble for the melting ice cap is likely to cause a maelstrom of commercial, environmental and military activity between competing arctic nations and powers. The prospect of discovering new fossil fuel deposits and new shipping routes is likely to have enormous implications for the region and the wider community, thus the subject is of high contemporary significance. (Ebinger, Charles G. and Zambetakis, Evie (2009)). However, there is little to no literature on what the potential ramifications would be, I want to find what the capacity of these sea routes are, what commodities would be traded through these sea routes, as well as by how much and when. This project aims to shed light on the different environmental and economic scenarios that could take place.
Research strategies and aims
In order to answer the question 'How environmental regulation affects the potential of Arctic shipping routes?' it is essential to understand what the factors and variables are that could influence the potential of Arctic shipping routes. These key variables are outlined (but not limited to) below:
1. Extent of sea ice - How many ships can pass through one route at a time and when?
2. Navigation - If the ice doesn't melt in a linear fashion, what type of ships would be able to navigate through the Arctic and how many?
3. Carbon regulations - How strict are carbon emissions policies?
4. World trade - Supply and demand for seasonal commodities such as grain and energy mean that Arctic routes will be more appealing to break bulk and bulk cargo ships. The lack of ports in the region makes them less useful to
container ships, so how will this affect the volume of maritime activity through the region?
5. Development of Arctic maritime infrastructure - It is speculated that the potential usage of LNG as a marine fuel and the increase in destinational shipping will drive the development of maritime infrastructure in the region (along the NSR). How would this affect the growth and size of shipping activity through the Arctic?
6. Polar Code - The Polar Code came into force on the 1st of January 2017, how will this affect the cost of using Arctic shipping routes and mitigate any environmental impact?
7. Pricing strategies - How would the Suez and Panama canals respond to open oceans in the Arctic?
8. Technological readiness - Are we currently technologically able to transitthrough the Arctic in a safe and eco-friendly manner, trading goods as per usual?


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R512400/1 30/09/2017 29/06/2022
1926431 Studentship EP/R512400/1 24/09/2017 15/12/2021 Joseph Lambert
Description A new method for analysing shipping activity in the Arctic region, one which includes analysing environment and technology in tandem with the economic aspects. The framework allows the researcher to test the sensitivity of key input variables and see what their effect on the environment and shipping activity may be.
Exploitation Route Build upon the method and test it to analyse the development of shipping in the Arctic holistically
Expand upon the environmental aspect to understand how shipping will directly impact the Arctic
Pursue an understanding of influential variables with greater fidelity
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Energy,Environment

Description - Used my research on fuels and the Arctic to draft a policy position statement for the IMAREst - Attended a seminar with a telecommunications company and offered insight into the impact of launching a telecom satellite over the Arctic region
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services