Arctic Ocean Shipping

Donald R. Rothwell
  • Brill Research Perspectives in the Law of the Sea, December 2017, Brill
  • DOI: 10.1163/24519359-12340103

Arctic Ocean Shipping reviews navigation, security and sovereignty issues in North America.

What is it about?

In Arctic Ocean Shipping, Donald R. Rothwell assesses contemporary navigation, security and sovereignty issues in the North American Arctic. Shipping in the Arctic Ocean is becoming a critical legal, geopolitical and security issue as a result of climate change and increased interest from non-Arctic States such as China. The law of the sea provides the key legal framework for the regulation of Arctic Ocean shipping, and has been relied upon by Canada and the United States to develop the legal regime for the Northwest Passage and the Bering Strait. Navigation within the EEZ and high seas in the Arctic is also becoming more strategically significant as a result of climate change. Multiple issues are raised with respect to maritime security and the adequacy of the existing legal regime, including how Canada and the United States will respond to interest being expressed in Arctic shipping by Asian States.

Why is it important?

Navigation throughout the Arctic Ocean is poorly understood from a legal perspective. There is a contest between the 'freedom of navigation' and 'coastal State sovereignty'. This article seeks to address these issues with a particular focus on the North American Arctic which includes the Northwest Passage and the Bering Strait, which are two of the most important waterways in the Arctic.


Donald Rothwell
Australian National University

This article provides a contemporary review of Arctic shipping in the North American Arctic by a scholar with 30 years of experience assessing these issues. Residing outside of the Arctic assists in allowing me to bring a neutral perspective to issues that increasingly are attracting strong nationalistic views.

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