Current Status

While the United States has never formally acknowledged the AWPPA, the coming-into-force of UNCLOS in 1982 is generally viewed as representing international acceptance of Canada's right to enact the legislation. However, the harsh conditions in the North West Passage have meant that few vessels have attempted to enter the Canadian waters protected by the AWPPA. Recently, concerns have been raised that climate change could result in greater accessibility to the entire Arctic region, the Canadian Arctic included. As a result, in 1994, many Arctic nations commenced a process to develop an Arctic Code for possible Arctic shipping. To a large degree, this effort is based on harmonizing the regulations of the AWPPA with the regulations subsequently developed by Russia and other northern states for their Arctic waters.

Somewhat ironically, while the Government of Canada took very aggressive action in creating the AWPPA, its implementation of the Act has been more timid. It requests vessels to comply with the regulations through a voluntary reporting system called NORDREG. It does not mandate them to comply. Secondly, while Article 234 of UNCLOS internationally validates the AWPPA, the Government of Canada is one of the few remaining states that has not ratified the Law of the Sea Convention.

Rob Huebert

See also North West Passage; UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

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