A framework for a safer Arctic

Coast Guard 17th District Waterways Management personnel discuss the formation of an Arctic Waterway Safety Committee at Gorsuch Commons Conference Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage campus in Anchorage, Alaska, Aug. 28, 2014. The committee would ensure the safety, security and stewardship of U.S. waters. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Coast Guard 17th District Waterways Management personnel discuss the formation of an Arctic Waterway Safety Committee at Gorsuch Commons Conference Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, Aug. 28, 2014. The committee would ensure the safety, security and stewardship of U.S. waters. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

As ice in the Arctic continues to melt and vessel traffic steadily increases, the Coast Guard 17th District continues to build on a framework to ensure the safety, security and stewardship of U.S. waters, through the Arctic Waterway Safety Committee.

This committee would give various stakeholders a forum to solve differences in the Arctic waterways without involving regulatory intervention from federal authorities therefore avoiding a drawn out bureaucratic process.

On Aug. 28, members of 17th District prevention department facilitated the initial committee at the Gorsuch Commons Conference Center on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. This meeting was held to bring representatives from various users of the Arctic waterways to discuss the benefits of establishing the AWSC.

Cmdr. James Houck presents the framework for the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee to potential stakeholders at the Gorsuch Commons Conference Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage campus in Anchorage, Alaska, Aug. 28, 2014. Houck is the Coast Guard 17th District Waterways Management chief in Juneau. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Cmdr. James Houck presents the framework for the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee to potential stakeholders at the Gorsuch Commons Conference Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, Aug. 28, 2014. Houck is the Coast Guard 17th District Waterways Management chief in Juneau. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“I feel like the organizational meeting of the Arctic Waterway Safety Committee meeting was very successful,” said Cmdr. James Houck, 17th District Waterways Management chief. “There was unanimous support amongst all stakeholders for creation of the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee which will focus on improving maritime safety in the Arctic, protecting the Arctic environment and preserving the lifestyles of those who live in the Arctic.”

The committee will be tasked with ensuring communication between members, improving the safety of the Arctic Maritime Transportation System, and generating consensus between AWSC members on issues impacting the Arctic Maritime Transportation System.

The AWSC is intended to be based off various frameworks from waterway safety committees across the country including Puget Sound, Wash., Los Angeles and a committee in southeast Texas that have all received positive results in the communities.

While the Coast Guard is providing a framework for this maritime committee, the committee will be established based solely on the collective group of stakeholders to include representatives from local and tribal governments, subsistence hunter co-management groups, advocacy organizations, the maritime industry and community members.

The process of forming a viable committee will take time. For now, the initial meeting of stakeholders has yielded a tentative steering committee to garner memberships, funding and organizational structure.

“It’s my hope that the AWSC steering committee will develop a draft organizational structure and bylaws for presentation back to the full AWSC group that fairly represents all the diverse users and stakeholders of the Arctic and moves the AWSC creation process forward so it can begin resolving maritime problems in the Arctic,” said Houck.

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