Stranded cruise ship off Greenland shows risks of more traffic in remote Arctic

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COPENHAGEN – The grounding of a luxury cruise ship off the coast of Greenland on Monday highlighted the irony of touring the fast-warming Arctic on a vessel powered by fossil fuels, the main culprit in climate change.

But the incident also underscores the recent growth of marine traffic in the region, a trend that raises the risk of accidents and pollution in hard-to-reach places. 

Global warming is destroying vast tracts of polar ice, opening previously frozen sea routes through the Arctic for longer periods.

In the case of Greenland, cruise ship traffic has risen 50 per cent in the last year, to about 600 ships, according to Mr Brian Jensen of the Danish military’s Joint Arctic Command. 

That trend is seen across the Arctic. 

“From the period of 2009 to 2018, ship traffic on a pan-Arctic scale doubled,” said Mr Paul Berkman, lead author of a 2022 report on the subject published by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Ship traffic is increasing as sea ice is decreasing.” 

The impact is being felt on remote ecosystems and communities as ships burning marine diesel, or methane-emitting liquefied natural gas, increasingly criss-cross the top of the globe.

Some studies show the carbon footprint of cruise ships, per passenger, is bigger than that of passenger jets. Globally, maritime transport emits more CO2 than Germany. 

More ship traffic also means a higher risk of accidents in remote, poorly mapped areas known for harsh and unpredictable weather conditions. 

A 2021 report on Arctic marine disasters showed a 42 per cent increase in accidents between 2005 and 2017 north of 58 degrees latitude, which encompasses the Arctic as well as some sub-arctic territory.

The report acknowledged gaps in the data, noting that not all Arctic states provided information. 

More than 40 expedition vessels – smaller ships capable of traversing narrow channels and shallow waters – were exploring the Arctic this summer, led by 20 different operators, according to Cruise Industry News.

Popular routes included those across Canada’s North-west Passage and along the coasts of Greenland, Norway and the Svalbard Archipelago.

EMEA Tribune is not involved in this news article, it is taken from our partners and or from the News Agencies. Copyright and Credit go to the News Agencies, email [email protected]

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