Report on Shipping in the Northwest Passage Launched

The Arctic Council’s Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) issued its third Arctic Shipping Status Report – Shipping in the Northwest Passage: Comparing 2013 with 2019.

The Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group (PAME) releases regular Arctic Shipping Status Reports that illustrate interesting topics related to Arctic shipping. All reports use data from PAME’s Arctic Ship Traffic Database. PAME developed the database, which includes data starting in 2013, in response to a growing need to collect and distribute accurate, reliable and up-to-date information on shipping activities in the Arctic. The first two Arctic Shipping Status reports, which focus on shipping trends and heavy fuel oil respectively, can be found here.

The third Arctic Shipping Status Report compares ship traffic in the Northwest Passage in 2013 and 2019. It reveals an increase in the number of ships entering the area, and an even larger increase in the distance sailed. The Northwest Passage refers to various marine routes between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans along the northern coast of North America that span the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Because there is no official definition of the Northwest Passage, PAME’s report uses the definition of Arctic Waters set out under Canada’s Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act.

The waterways surrounding the Canadian Arctic are comprised of approximately 36,000 islands, making it one of the most complex geographies on Earth. The area is populated by coastal Canadian communities without road/rail transport to the South. The largest settlement in the region is Iqaluit, with a population of almost 8,000.

Unique ships entering the Northwest Passage area increased 44% from 2013 to 2019. Some of the most common ship types to navigate the area include bulk carriers, general cargo ships, fishing vessels and cruise ships.

The majority of commercial ships operating the Northwest Passage are Canadian, followed by ships flagged from Marshall Islands, Panama and the Bahamas.

More detailed information, including Northwest Passage routes, types of ships operating in the region and more, can be found in the full online report.