Building a blue economy in the Arctic

By Arctic Business Journal - May 31, 2022

The Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land masses and the regional economy is closely tied to the sea. The private sector sees green technology, efficient use of resources, and community engagement as key elements of sustainable development.

The critical role of the local communities’ involvement during infrastructure development in the Arctic became one of the key themes in a breakout session organised by the Arctic Economic Council in cooperation with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and with the IESE Business School in Barcelona in frames of the 6th UNECE International Public Private Partnership (PPP) Forum. Here, speakers from such companies as Troms Kraft, Massterly, ATCO, and the Aleut International Association discussed the role of PPPs in developing the blue economy in different parts of the Arctic.

Arctic blue economy opportunities
The cornerstone of the blue economy lies in the sustainable use of ocean resources, economic growth, job creation, improving living standards, and at the same time, preserving the environment.

“The Arctic has a lot of opportunities linked to the blue economy, for example, fishing, mining, connectivity, and shipping. To take advantage of these opportunities, the Arctic needs infrastructure investments. Yet developing the blue economy is not only about attracting financial resources but also about solving the declining demographics,” said Mads Qvist Frederiksen, the AEC executive director.

Deep-water port in the Aleutians

In the North American Arctic, the indigenous communities take the lead in infrastructure development necessary for the blue economy. Many of them have been living on and of the ocean for centuries, as did, for example,  the  Aleuts, an indigenous group in Alaska.

“We know the importance of water transportation and how it can be incorporated into our traditional way of life. Sustainable economic development is important to the people, and the communities in the Aleut region, and maritime activity plays an important role. From transportation, food security and jobs, the ocean plays a vital part of the Aleut’s way of life,” said Thomas Mack, a representative of the Aleut International Association.

One investment opportunity that the Aleuts are promoting is an all-year-round deep-water port on the Adak Island, in the Bering sea. There is already some infrastructure available due to the commercial fishing industry, past military activities, and the current shipment on the Great Circle Route through the Aleutian Islands.

Shipping industry goes green

As maritime transportation in the Arctic is intensifying, the need for zero emission vessels is becoming more and more urgent. One of the other speakers was the innovative, Massterly, a Norwegian company that is developing autonomous, zero-emissions vessels.

There are many design concepts for zero-emission vessels, the smaller vessels can be electrified and use battery power, while larger vessels can be powered by hydrogen, green ammonia, solar, wind and perhaps even nuclear power.

Recently, the Norwegian government established zero-emissions requirements due to come into effect in 2026 for vessels operating in fjords that have received World Heritage designation. Similarly, “green corridors” should be established in vulnerable Arctic areas.

Pia Meling, VP Sales and Marketing at Massterly, said: “We see autonomy as a means to reduce the operating costs of shipping by having a crew onshore supporting several vessels from remote operation centre. This way, autonomy can help ship owners and operators afford zero-emission fuels and zero-emission technology, which are more expensive than current solutions based on diesel. It can also increase safety, as technology can prevent human errors. Organising rescue operations in Arctic conditions is very challenging, so if we can transport cargo on uncrewed vessels in the Arctic in the future, the risk of human lives in an accident will be less.”

This article was produced by the Arctic Economic Council.

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