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The governance of shipping activities in the Arctic might be described as a “complicated mosaic.” The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), often referred to as the constitution of the oceans, sets out the overall legal framework for the regulation of shipping. The Convention sets out coastal state legislative and enforcement powers over foreign ships according to the maritime zones of jurisdiction laid out in the Convention. A fragmented array of international agreements attempts to address specific challenges raised by shipping such as marine pollution prevention standards, ship safety, seafarer rights and qualifications, and liability and compensation for spills (Appendix A). In addition, the threats raised to/by ships operating in ice-covered waters have led northern countries that border these waters, such as Canada and Russia, to adopt national legislation specifically for Arctic shipping (Appendix B).


A Report to Transport Canada for the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment, Halifax, 2008.