Coast Guard proposes increasing its Arctic presence

Wed, 2014-05-14 05:10 AMBy: Lorrie Barclay

In a new report, The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has proposed that it increase its presence in and begin to conduct training and operations exercises in the Arctic due to increasing regional activity by the U.S. and other countries. To date there has not been a consistent USCG presence in the Arctic except for the cutter ship HEALY.

According to many reports, Arctic sea ice is expected to continue to melt due to climate change; many believe this will lead to an increase in commercial activities such as fishing. The USCG hopes to provide a greater shore, air, and sea presence to reduce activities such as illegal fishing and to help prevent environmental damage. The agency especially expects maritime activity to increase during the mid-March to mid-November season.

The report also emphasizes the importance of preparing for potential oil spills, especially since off-shore oil drilling began in the region in recent months. "USCG personnel, equipment, transportation, communication, navigation, and safety resources needed for oil spill response are not adequate for overseeing oil spill response in the Arctic," the report says.

In order to respond to possible oil spills, the agency will require investments in technology, infrastructure, research, and training, it says. The report also calls for improvements in technology and satellite coverage to track changes in Arctic ice. The USCG has proposed creating an oil spill research team that would help create a better oil spill response strategy; it has also proposed increasing research into how chemicals used in an oil spill cleanup would affect the Arctic region.