Vessels navigate freely in the port of Helsinki, Finland this winter as the usually busy icebreakers standby idle. The retreating ice is creating the once-fabled Northwest Passage, allowing goods to travel between Western Europe and Eastern Asia with a 4,000-mile shortcut through the Canadian Arctic. The Russian Northeast Passage is also becoming more accessible, creating a huge potential for increased shipping and fishing traffic throughout the entire Arctic region. As traffic increases, countries with jurisdiction over the Arctic should consider international agreements to protect against catastrophic oil or chemical spills in the region’s fragile ecosystems.
Lore, Michael W. “Preventing Disaster as the Arctic Seas Open for Business.” Sustainable Development Law and Policy, Spring 2008, 36-37.