Friday, May 29, 2009

Cooperation, not conflict, in the Arctic: Postcript to COLP Conference in Seward; Conference Presentations posted

As a postscript to the previous entry regarding Changes in the Arctic Environment and the Law of the Sea, the 33rd annual conference of The Center for Oceans Law and Policy (COLP), it is important to broadcast at least one message emphasized repeatedly by conference participants. That message is that there is great cooperation in the Arctic Ocean by littoral states, especially regarding submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and in managing existing disagreements regarding maritime boundaries.

John Norton Moore, Director of COLP, in an interview for Alaska Public Radio, emphasized “very substantial cooperation at an operational level, for example Coast Guard to Coast Guard and that governments are working closely together to try to resolve the remaining issues of boundary problems, for example."  Moore emphasized that the eight arctic nations are  “working on cooperative solutions.”  This message was reiterated by Rear Admiral Arthur E Brooks, Commander, 17th USCG  District,  in his description of cooperation between the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards and by the many diplomatic representatives in attendance.  For a related story from the Canadian perspective see the Petroleum News coverage of a Commonwealth North forum in Anchorage last week (discussing Canada's joint Arctic Ocean surveying with the U.S. and a separate memorandum of understanding with Denmark for joint surveying, as well as Canada's exchange of scientific data about Arctic Ocean ridges with Russia).

Powerpoint presentations from the Seward meeting are already posted on the COLP conference website; the papers will appear in the ongoing series of COLP conference reports published by Brill.  The conference website also provides conference notes prepared by student rapporteur Lisa Campion of Vermont Law School, who is interning this summer at Trustees for Alaska  and is a member of the VLS Institute for Energy and the Environment research team.  Note: the book referenced in her notes on Ted McDorman’s talk is Transit Management in the Northwest Passage: Problems and Prospects, Cynthia Lamson and David L. VanderZwaag (eds), Cambridge University Press 1988 (ISBN 978-0-521-09337-8)

Of particular note for continental shelf mapping is the presentation by Brian Van Pay, Maritime Geographer with the U.S. Department of State Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs.  His talk provided a comprehensive overview of the status of each arctic state’s preparations for and submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf  (sketched in much less detail here).   The presentations from the session dedicated to Continental Shelf Limits and Jurisdiction (offering a Canadian, United States, Danish and Russian perspective) are also available at the COLP conference web site.

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.