Sunday, November 14, 2010

More transparency on the way for Russian CLCS submission?

On November 13, 2010, the Russian news service RIA Novosti ran this report on the end of the 2010 Russian extended continental shelf cruise (July-October), during which new data was acquired for the Russian Federation's supplemental submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). 

Daria Vasilevskaya, deputy head of the Geology Department of the Natural Resources Ministry  "told RIA Novosti the new research was necessary as details of previous expeditions were labeled secret due to the use of military equipment."

Speaking of earlier cruises on which ECS data was gathered, Vasilevskaya said: 

" 'It was not possible to give a full description of the military technical equipment on account of secrecy.' The new research was done on board the ship Akademik Fyodorov from July through October. Only civilian equipment was used, Vasilevskaya said."

The use of civilian equipment does not automatically translate into any information being more readily available to non-participants in the Russian Federation CLCS process. It does, however, potentially signal somewhat greater  transparency for the parts of the process that are eventually made public.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission established October 2010

One month ago,  the five arctic coastal states of Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States, established the Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission (ArHC).  The  International Hydrographic Organization has posted the Statement of the Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission on the IHO website.  

The Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission, or ArHC, is the 15th such regional commission established since the founding of the IHO in 1921, joining 14 other RhCs and the IHO Hydrographic Committee on Antarctica.

The Statement of the ArHC provides in part:
"Due to climate change the Arctic is undergoing extraordinary transformations facilitating increased natural resource development and marine traffic at a time when little reliable data exists. At present, less than 10% of Arctic waters are charted to modern standards. To meet current and emerging challenges, the Arctic Coastal States represented by their Hydrographic Offices, have recognized the need for enhanced collaboration and coordination of their activities.
By exchanging knowledge and information and by providing quality assured data, the Members of the ARHC aim to facilitate an environmentally responsible exploration of Arctic waters."

The IHO is an intergovernmental and technical organization established in 1921 "to support safety of navigation and the protection of the marine environment."

September 2011 UPDATE: Information on the Second Meeting of ARHC is available here.

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.