On January 29 NOAA announced the release of a new report on the Arctic and responding to disasters. The University of New Hampshire/NOAA authored study, titled Opening of the Arctic Seas, Envisioning Disaster and Framing Solutions (opens as .pdf), covers a series of important topics related to shipping in the Arctic. Of great importance to Amver, however, are the common recommendations issued (opens as .pdf).
While there are 12 recommendations, 5 of them relate specifically to Amver. Let's look at the 5 that Amver can most significantly impact:
- Multi lateral Arctic agreements/plans for search and rescue and environmental response, designated routes, international Arctic fund. Search and rescue agreements between Arctic nations, coupled with standardized response procedures for search and rescue authorities, will greatly increase each nations ability to respond to an incident in the Arctic. As previously posted, Amver data can be quickly requested by international rescue coordination centers and should become standard operating procedures for rescue coordinators bordering the Arctic. History has proven, in the case of the Cruise Ship Prinsendam sinking, the value of having Amver participating vessels on scene. It was the crew of the tanker Williamsburgh who, along with other United States Coast Guard resources, successfully rescued 175 Prinsendam passengers.
- Increase emergency response assets/supplies/equipment/planning in Arctic regions, especially active regions. The likelihood of increasing the number of dedicated ice capable search and rescue assets in the Arctic is an economic and ship building issue. The Canadian Coast Guard ice breaking program includes a fleet of 18 ice breakers while the United States Coast Guard has three. While efforts are underway to increase ice breaker fleets, new vessels may be years away. How can response assets be increased quickly and cost effectively? By relying on the merchant vessels already transiting the Arctic. Encouraging merchant vessels already transiting Arctic waters to participate in Amver gives search and rescue authorities a greater number of resources to turn to when faced with disaster.
- Expand Arctic communications and vessel transit networks. While it may sound redundant, the Amver system is a premier vessel tracking system. Couple Amver data with other vessel monitoring systems such as Long Range Identification and Tracking or AIS and search professionals can "layer" Amver data on top existing vessel transit data to provide a more complete picture of available resources. The advantage of Amver, as opposed to LRIT or AIS, is that the infrastructure already exists. There is no beta testing, no implementation period, no need to launch satellites, and no need for new antennas.
- Real time data in Arctic regions such as weather, currents, ice, etc. The United States Coast Guard and NOAA created software to assist mariners in submitting voluntary weather reports and Amver messages. The Amver/SEAS Met Software program was created to reduce the number of reports sent from the bridge and allows for both weather observation data and Amver position information to be transmitted in one message. Vessels transiting the Arctic region should be encouraged to utilize the Amver/SEAS software to transmit their Amver messages and real time weather data.
- Engagement of the Arctic states with cruise ships, merchant vessels, in framing solutions to the urgency of search and rescue issue in the Arctic. The United States Coast Guard has a robust Mass Rescue Operations Program focusing on many scenarios including cruise ship rescue. In addition to the Mass Rescue program the United States Coast Guard has an active Passenger Vessel Safety Program which has reached out to the cruise community to increase the frequency of exercises and is in the planning stages of full scale mass rescue exercise in Alaska this April. The current engagement by Passenger Vessel Safety/Mass Rescue Operations personnel, coupled with increased Amver participation, stands to make Arctic shipping safer.