Murkowski, Wicker, Sullivan Introduce Legislation to Prioritize Arctic Maritime Transportation Opportunities, Safety, and Security

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and  Dan Sullivan (R-AK) introduced legislation to urge the U.S. to prioritize emerging opportunities in the Arctic for maritime transportation, and ensure that increased Arctic shipping proceeds safely and securely. The Arctic Shipping Federal Advisory Committee Act addresses increasing shipping and maritime traffic by creating an advisory committee to study Arctic maritime transportation, including Arctic seaway development.

The Arctic Shipping Federal Advisory Committee, once established, would be comprised of 15 members, tasked with developing a set of policy recommendations to enhance the United States’ leadership role in improving the safety and reliability of maritime transportation in the Arctic Region. The bill also affirms that if a Special Representative for the Arctic Region is appointed by the Secretary of State, the representative will facilitate multilateral dialogues with the Arctic Council and encourage cooperation on Arctic maritime transportation as well as coordinate any plan recommendations by the Advisory Committee.  

“With environmental changes opening sea routes potentially year-round and an increased global interest in the area, we continue to see greater opportunities but also greater challenges in the Arctic. It’s imperative that the U.S. maintains its leadership role in this region of global importance,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “This bill helps us address some of the needs and challenges in the Arctic, by prioritizing the safety and management of the region. As we see increased activity in the Arctic, we must be proactive in developing a strategic plan to support safe maritime transportation in the region.”

“The United States has a vital interest in the safety and security of the Arctic region – especially as a corridor for commerce and trade,” Senator Wicker said. “With greater cooperation among regional stakeholders, we can develop a comprehensive plan to preserve U.S. leadership in this region.” 

“We are in the midst of a national awakening regarding the importance of the Arctic, and this bill is another crucial step in strengthening U.S. leadership in the region.” said Senator Dan Sullivan. “As rapidly changing sea ice opens new shipping lanes, the Arctic will experience an increase in maritime traffic. Though these circumstances will create new opportunities, they will also present unique obstacles to overcome. This bill will ensure that U.S. leaders and agencies understand these issues and prioritize the safety and security of operations in the Arctic.”

Arctic Shipping Federal Advisory Committee Act Details:

Click here for full text of the bill.

  • Membership: Comprised of 15 members representing federal agencies, the States of Alaska and Washington, Alaska Native tribes, coastal communities, subsistence co-management groups, and representatives from the shipping sector, the Advisory Committee will convene experts and stakeholders to develop recommendations for how the United States can lead in ensuring that shipping in the Arctic is safe, secure, and reliable.
  • Policy: The Advisory Committee is tasked to study options for U.S. leadership in Arctic shipping, including construction, operation, and maintenance of current and future maritime infrastructure needs, such as deepwater ports, for vessels transiting the Arctic Sea Routes. This tasking also includes determining services such as navigation and incident response that would improve maritime safety and environmental protection in the Arctic Region. The Committee is also mandated to consider the feasibility of a fee-for-service model to pay for necessary services for those who use the Arctic waterways.
  • Report: The Advisory Committee is directed to submit a report, no later than 2 years after the enactment of this Act, with its recommendations to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Background: Senator Murkowski is considered the leading expert among her Congressional colleagues on Arctic issues and has worked continuously to raise awareness of the Arctic. At the beginning of the 114th Congress, Senator Murkowski and Senator Angus King (I-ME) formed the Senate Arctic Caucus, to advance issues important to the Arctic and to the people who live there. Murkowski is the U.S. Representative to the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region. Murkowski has also led the charge to recapitalize and expand America’s fleet of Polar Security Cutters (aka icebreakers).

Related Issues: Arctic