IMO approves Bering Strait shipping routes proposal

IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim
Russia’s Transport Ministry on Wednesday disclosed that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has granted approval to a joint US-Russia proposal on regulating shipping in the Bering Strait.
The proposal was approved by the IMO Maritime Safety Committee at its 99th session being held in London.
The new proposal, which will be applied from December 1, 2018, is the first internationally recognized measure for navigation in polar waters approved by the IMO under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 74/78.
The proposed system envisages six two-way routes in the Bering Strait with a width of four nautical miles and approaches to it from the US and Russian sides as well as six precautionary areas.
The Ministry said the routes are positioned parallel to each other across the US and Russian parts of the strait. This allows vessels to choose the most convenient way of their passage through the strait, taking into account weather and ice condition as well as the ship’s destination.
In addition, the routes are located at the maximum distance from the coast, with depths being sufficient for the safe passage of large vessels.
The proposed two-way routes will be voluntary for all domestic and international ships and apply to vessels of 400 gross tonnage and above.
The measure is expected to reduce the risks of collision and provide adequate sea room for ships executing collision avoidance measures in order to avoid the risk of pollution and other damage to the sensitive marine environment.
According to the Ministry, the measure will support further development of infrastructure projects in the Russian Arctic related to the export of hydrocarbons and promote the growth of transit shipping through the Northern Sea Route.