The online Arctic Guardian 2021 exercise will enhance circumpolar collaboration in the event of a marine search and rescue or oil spill incident in the Arctic

The Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR) Working Group of the Arctic Council and the Arctic Coast Guard Forum (ACGF) will hold a joint online emergency response exercise from 12-14 April, hosted by the Environment Agency of Iceland and the Icelandic Coast Guard. The goal of the exercise is to improve Arctic nations’ capability to respond to maritime incidents requiring joint search and rescue (SAR) and marine environmental response operations.

Arctic Guardian 2021 exercise is designed to improve collaboration between Arctic Council and ACGF member states who are signatories of the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic (MOSPA) and the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic (Arctic SAR Agreement). The collaborative exercise will provide public and private operational and policy-oriented SAR and marine environmental response organizations with a means to discuss their communication and coordination processes in the event of a marine SAR and/or oil spill incident in the Arctic.

The Arctic Guardian 2021 exercise follows a scenario where an oil tanker and an expeditionary cruise vessel collide off the North coast of Iceland. Originally intended as a live exercise following a table-top exercise in fall 2020, the virtual format will ensure that all stakeholders can participate, and the global pandemic does not hinder Arctic emergency preparedness.

“As maritime activity in the Arctic increases, it elevates the risk of serious incidents and the need to plan and prepare for emergency and pollution responses. It is crucial to test and better understand the challenges of a coordinated response that involves many different players in a safe environment. It allows us to not only test response activities, but also build and strengthen the relationships between these diverse players, which are incredibly important at the time of real emergency.” Jens Peter Holst-Andersen, Chair of EPPR
“As we know, disasters can strike without any previous indication, anytime, anywhere. The Arctic and adjacent regions are incredibly challenging. Therefore, we have to exercise and prepare for major incidents, emphasizing harsh weather conditions, long distances involved and limited infrastructure. That is precisely the purpose of the Arctic Guardian exercise and workshop. We share and cooperate to battle these elements to make the area safer for the inhabitants and guests.” RADM Georg Lárusson, Chair of the ACGF and Director General of the Icelandic Coast Guard

The Arctic Guardian 2021 exercise will engage stakeholders in Iceland, representatives from other Arctic States, key non-government organizations and industry actors involved in search and rescue and marine environmental response. The Wilson Center Polar Institute will provide overarching facilitation support, assist moderation and also contribute to exercise outcomes. The entities jointly designing and organizing the exercise include ACGF Combined Operations Working Group (COWG), EPPR MOSPA Joint Design Team and the Environment Agency of Iceland.

Following the exercise, an evaluation team will develop an after action report to document lessons learned and possible areas for improvement in regard to preparedness and response capabilities and processes across the Arctic States in relation to SAR and marine environmental response.

For questions about the exercise, please contact:

Environment Agency of Iceland


EPPR Secretariat


Icelandic Coast Guard

Ásgeir Erlendsson


Arctic Coast Guard Forum

Auðunn Kristinsson


About the Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic Indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. Members of the Arctic Council are Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States.

About EPPR

EPPR is one of six Arctic Council Working Groups. EPPR contributes to the prevention, preparedness and response to environmental emergencies, natural disasters, accidents and search and rescue. While not an operational response organization, EPPR conducts projects to address gaps, prepare strategies, share information, collect data and collaborate with relevant partners on capabilities and research needs that exist in the Arctic.

About Arctic Coast Guard Forum

The Arctic Coast Guard Forum (ACGF) is an independent, informal, operationally-driven organization, not bound by treaty, to foster safe, secure, and environmentally responsible maritime activity in the Arctic. All Arctic countries, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Island, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States are members of the forum. Chairmanship duties of the ACGF rotate every two years in concert with the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.