An Ocean Between Us: The Implications of Inconsistencies Between the Navigational Laws of Coastal Arctic Council Nations and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea for Arctic Navigation
Who determines the “rules of the road” for once inaccessible Arctic shipping routes? This Note examines the implications for navigation and protection of the marine environment should current sea ice melting trends create a shortcut across the Arctic Ocean. The existing international legal framework arguably does not contemplate such a shortcut: ambiguous “due regard” language in Article 234 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS”) leaves Arctic Coastal States with broad perhaps excessive latitude to restrict navigation through their waters. By analyzing inconsistencies between the Arctic navigation policies of three Arctic Coastal States (Russia, Canada, and the United States) and the existing international legal framework, Williams concludes that these inconsistencies can be easily resolved by understanding the “due regard” standard in UNCLOS Article 234 through the lens of the Polar Code, an internationally binding maritime safety code expected to enter into force in January 2017. Such an understanding would help protect individuals navigating through the Arctic as well as the Arctic environment, while still allowing Arctic Coastal States to maintain some level of autonomy and sovereignty
J.D. Candidate, 2017, Vanderbilt University Law School; B.A., 2012, Duke University.