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Climate change and commercial shipping development in the Arctic

The Arctic ice is receding, as ice extent in the summer is decreasing fast, faster than models predicted. The perspective of an ice-free Arctic in the summer is looming, with talks of riches to be exploited (oil, gas, minerals) and seaways developing across it between Europe and Asia. The perspective of a dramatic development in Arctic shipping triggered the debate in Canada as to how to assert Canada’s sovereignty so as to protect the environment.

But is shipping really going to develop this fast? What segments of the shipping industry could be interested in playing a seasonal, poorly mapped, unserviced northern route? Will containerized cargo liners between Europe and Asia rush to the route?

This research would therefore focus on the question: to what extent will shipping develop in the Northwest and Northeast Passages, and with what kind of shipping: will it be transit shipping, fishing, tourism, transportation induced by natural resources mining? What do shipping firms think about it, and why?

It is the pace and extent of shipping development that will, probably, determine to what extent international pressure will be mounting on Canada’s claim: a gradually growing traffic will enable Canada to adapt to the new situation and assert its regulatory authority.

Study site locations

Resolute, Cambridge Bay


Pond Inlet


Local collaborations

City of Iqaluit

Government of Nunavut

Project Contact information:

Frederic Lasserre
Dept of Geography
Laval University