Project Description

Background

Increased minerals, oil and gas exploration in the offshore northern regions (Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Russia and Norway) are met by challenges to industrial and logistics operations. For example, Coastal Norway is an origin a transit gateway for cargo shipments between Europe and Asia through the Northern Sea Route (North East Passage). Traffic has increased dramatically in response to a retreat of summer sea ice in recent years. While this route was completely impassable during the 1980s and most the 1990, light summer ice conditions most recently allowed for commercially viable shipments during a window of opportunity from spring to autumn. In 2012, petroleum products constituted the largest cargo group, accounting for over half of the vessel traffic. The largest tanker was the Norwegian "Marika", which transported jet fuel from Korea to Finland in August. The Northern Sea Route was used for transportation of LNG for the first time in history in autumn 2012 when the tanker "Ob River" transported LNG from Statoil's gas plant in Hammerfest to Tobata in Japan. The distance and travel time to Japan are nearly half via the north compared with sailing the more traditional Suez Canal route, allowing for savings in fuel and reduced costs. However, along the Northern Sea Route, sea ice floes and occasional icebergs are present even in generally ice-free waters in summer. Economics will lead to pressure extending commercial activity into the transition periods, i.e. spring when winter sea ice only begins to break up and retreat, and fall when new sea ice begins to form. The government's white paper on the High North policy of 18 November 2011 identifies skill and network development related to the Northern Sea Route as part of the overall strategic aims for 2011-2030 (Meld. St. 7, 2011-2012). Further, it was recognized that increased activity along the Northern Sea Route may lead to a greater need for regulation in the northern seas, and may have implications for search and rescue and oil spill response capability.

Project

The government's white paper on the High North policy of 18 November 2011 identifies skill and network development related to the Northern Sea Route as part of the overall strategic aims for 2011-2030 (Meld. St. 7, 2011-2012). Further, it was recognized that increased activity along the Northern Sea Route may lead to a greater need for regulation in the northern seas, and may have implications for search and rescue and oil spill response capability. The OpSIce initiative targets specifically knowledge of sea ice conditions and fate of oil spills in ice-covered waters.

The goal of this initiative is to establish the OpSIce Center with a circum-Arctic network of expertise in northern Norway in order to promote exchange and cooperation between research and industry at regional, national and international scale. The network is intended to assist in knowledge transfer and the specification of key industrial demands, giving special attention to economic and safe operations. The Project will target three foundations of sustainable and economically viable commercial and industrial activity in seasonally ice-covered waters:

  1. Dynamics of sea ice: presence, properties, drift, and forecast
  2. Impact of sea ice: energy efficient navigation and potential damage to structures and vessels
  3. Interactions of sea ice with fuel and crude oil cargo spills: processes, detection, and remediation options

It is envisioned that stakeholders and researchers focus initially on areas of competence already available in northern Norway. At the same time, promising expansion into related aspects shall be pursued. Initial areas of focus will therefore be remote sensing and modeling of the presence and properties of ice, mechanical impact of sea ice, and interaction of spills with sea ice. The OpSIce network will:

  • Strengthen the network between industry and research and development in northern Norway and internationally
  • Organize stakeholder workshops to identify research and development priorities relevant to shipping industry regarding opportunities, challenges, future directions, and to evaluate efforts to-date in project development.
  • Summarize workshop results in the form of whitepapers
  • Disseminate OpSIce activity and whitepapers through a dedicated webpage
  • Develop compelling projects to address identified priorities
  • Increase the visibility of northern Norwegian activities through OpSIce presentations at international conferences

Target Group

OpSIce aims to contribute to safe, economic and sustainable development connected to Northern Sea Route shipping ventures. The target groups are both research and development institutes, and stakeholders in marine operations along the Northern Sea Route and other sea ice-covered waters. Stakeholders include a wide range of decision makers (e.g. ship owners, captains, logistics providers, design engineers, regulators). Participation from both groups will be sought during workshops, with national and international interest exemplified by non-exclusive letters of support attached to this proposal.
Input from stakeholders will be sought during workshops to define the goal of research projects and identify practical aspects to be considered. Participants from the research and development community will break down the goals into manageable tasks that can be pursued in targeted projects.