The Week Ahead: Brushing up on their MOSPA

By Kevin McGwin - March 5, 2018
No brushes or ice will be soiled for the purpose of the exercise (Lamor)

Oil spills are nothing to look forward to. Precisely for that reason Finland is looking to generate as much attention as it can to an oil-recovery exercise being staged, together with Sweden, in the Bay of Bothnia, March 6-8.

Responders will know nearly everything about the spill ahead of time: time and location of the incident, as well as the type of oil (heavy fuel) and amount (about 3,000 tons) released.

Eliminating the unknowns lets the organizers place the focus squarely on testing the protocols laid out in the Arctic Council’s Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (MOSPA), and on working together.

“The environmental risks in Arctic regions have increased over the last few decades. International cooperation creates the conditions for protecting the marine environment from oil spills,” said Jorma Rytkönen, of SYKE, the Finnish environmental institute, the state agency organizing the exercise.

The Baltic is no Arctic, but there should be enough ice to simulate a cleanup using mechanical brush skimmers suited for ice conditions. Ice will not be a deciding factor though: if the going gets too tough, the spill will be moved to a more accessible area. That will be the most unrealistic part of all.

When and where
Arctic Coast Guard Forum: March 5-9 / Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response
March 6-8; Oulu

For more information
Arctic Coast Guard Forum
International Arctic oil spill response exercise and seminar

Further reading
The Week Ahead: Tension and tranquillity
Arctic coast guards agree to team up for shipping emergencies


PDAC mining convention
One of the sure signs of spring for miners is the annual PDAC convention. Held every year since 1932, PDAC (short for Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada) is the biggest event of the year for the sector, drawing participation last year from 130 countries.

The mood at this year’s gathering, which begins on March 5, will be more upbeat than in recent years. After falling to historic lows just a few years ago, commodity prices are on the rise. Analysts across the board suggest this is a trend that is likely to keep up, without danger in the near term of the unsustainable expectations that preceded the crash.

Hope, as ever, springs eternal.

When and where
March 5-7; Toronto, Canada

For more information
PDAC mining convention

Further reading
Miners upbeat ahead of Toronto rite of spring
Arctic nickel — not Arctic oil — could soon power the world’s cars


Fokus 2018
Norway has had the Arctic as its highest foreign-policy priority since the early 2000s. The same is true of Russia, its powerful neighbor to the east.

So it’s fortunate for Oslo that — despite disruptive behavior elsewhere in the world — Moscow is committed to “stability and cooperation,” in the region. That’s according to Fokus 2017, a threat assessment drawn up by E-tjenesten, Norway’s military-intelligence agency.

For this reason, the ‘Russia’ chapter of the annual reports has been able to neatly break off ‘The Arctic’ into a separate section. In 2017, the other sections in the Russia chapter took up the armed forces, foreign policy, domestic policy and economy.

Whether such distinctions can continue to be made in the 2018 edition, which comes out Monday, March 5, is uncertain.

Domestic politics and economics were central to the 2017 discussion of the Arctic. Security policy, though kept out of the Arctic discussion, is playing a larger role in Kremlin Arctic thinking, according to the Norwegians. This, they say, is due to concerns in Moscow that the West may be seeking to challenge Russia for primacy in the region. The assessment, when it comes to Russia, may still be that north is north and south is south, but there is no guarantee the twain will never meet.

When and where
March 5; Oslo, Norway

For more information
Fokus 2017

Further reading
Norwegian intelligence report: Arctic important to Russia, but not a top priority
Military-economic complex 


Indigenous Film Conference
The International Sámi Film Institute invites filmmakers from around the region to its Indigenous Film Conference to discuss the future of the Arctic as an emerging indigenous film region. Delegates may start by debating whether ‘emerging’ is, in fact, the proper term to describe their status.

After a similar gathering in 2011 sought to hammer home the importance of film in modern indigenous storytelling, films by Sámi and Inuit filmmakers have found themselves included on the programs of major global film festivals, including Sundance, Toronto and the 2017 Berlinale, where nine short and 10 feature-length films from around the Arctic were included in the NATIVe section of the world’s most prestigious film event.

Where is indigenous filmmaking headed? As with the rest of the industry, to the small screen: the International Sámi Film Institute and Canada’s York University are working to collect the scariest myths and legends from around the region and compile them into a 10-episode series that will be suitable for a content-hungry streaming service.

Emerging, or just keeping up with the times?

When and where
March 7-9; Kautokeino, Norway

For more information
International Sámi Film Institute

Further reading
This fund aims to help indigenous filmmakers tell their own stories about the Arctic


Other events this week
Joint Reindeer
Norway stages Joint Reindeer, a military exercise aimed at training the winter combat-readiness of the country’s main combat unit, Brigade Nord, also known the Arctic Brigade.

Some 5,000 soldiers, including American and Dutch marines, will take part in Joint Reindeer, making it the second-largest military exercise planned in Norway this year. (The largest will be in October, when 35,000 NATO soldiers take part in Trident Juncture.)

When and where
March 5-11; Northern Norway

For more information
Joint Reindeer 2018 (in Norwegian only)

Further reading
Hundreds of U.S. Marines land in Norway, irking Russia


Alaska-China trade opportunities
On the heels of a huge potential deal with China to invest in an LNG pipeline traversing Alaska, signed with China in November, the state’s governor, Bill Walker, is expected to announce steps to increase global investment in Alaska, discussing, in particular, the benefits of a China trade mission.

When and where
March 5; Juneau, Alaska

For more information
Alaska LNG

Further reading
What China’s involvement means for Alaska’s latest Arctic gas line plan


Nordic food culture and tourism conference
Matmerk, an organization promoting Norwegian food, and the Nordic Council host the Nordic food Culture and Tourism conference. The event brings together Nordic tourism-industry groups to discuss how to promote local “food treasures in the travel industry”.

When and where
March 6-7; Lofoten, Norway

For more information
Nordic Food Culture and Tourism

Further reading
Arctic tourism is growing — but that’s playing out differently around the region


AMAP Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) follow-up workshop
The SWIPA 2017 assessment was conducted between 2010 and 2016 by an international group of over 90 scientists, experts and knowledgeable members of the Arctic indigenous communities.

It is the fourth assessment by Arctic Council working group Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) addressing Arctic climate issues and a direct follow-up to the 2011 SWIPA: Climate Change and the Cryosphere.

When and where
March 6-8; Helsinki, Finland

For more information
Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic
Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme

Further reading
Arctic Ocean on track to be ice-free in summer by 2040


Russia’s Arctic Ambitions. Domestic Factors and Foreign Policy Strategies
A part of the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS) seminar series, this presentation by Marlene Laruelle of the George Washington University will focus on the dominant role of domestic factors and and how they influence Russia’s foreign-policy stances towards the Arctic. The presentation will be streamed live.

When and where
March 6, 12pm; Washington, DC

For more information
ARCUS research seminar series

Further reading
Putin: Russia’s future lies in the Arctic

The Week Ahead is a preview of some of the events related to the region that will be in the news in the coming week. If you have a topic you think ought to be profiled in a coming week, please email [email protected].