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Quantifying Arctic shipping risk through case studies

Shipping activities in Arctic areas are certain to increase in the years to come and, as the Arctic is a challenging and diverse environment, knowing how to manage its risks will be crucial. Through case studies, DNV GL has estimated that the risk is nearly 30 per cent higher for a cruise ship and almost 15 per cent higher for a bulk carrier compared to more conventional routes.

“We needed to gain a deeper understanding of the risk in the different parts of the Arctic in order to make better decisions about future developments,” said Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, President DNV GL Maritime. “We had to put guesswork aside and apply a scientific approach to clarify risk levels in the Arctic. In doing so, we employed typical DNV GL methods: we identified the risks and then proposed recommendations to mitigate probabilities and consequences.”

To understand the shipping risks, DNV GL examined the case of a cruise ship sailing off the coast of Greenland and a bulk carrier transiting the Northern Sea Route. The study showed that, in the cruise ship scenario, the overall risk is nearly 30 per cent higher than elsewhere, largely due to the survival challenges faced by the people on board. The risk to the bulk carrier was almost 15 per cent higher because of the danger of collision with ice.

A report recently released by DNV GL, THE ARCTIC – the next risk frontier, proposes a number of design concepts to reduce risk. For cruise ships, enhanced damage stability, a collision-resistant hull and lifeboats better suited to the Arctic are all measures aimed at improving survivability in the case of an accident. For bulk carriers, hovercraft lifeboats enabling mobility over both water and ice and checks on the ice strengthening to ensure that it matches the actual ice conditions are important measures to manage the risks.

“Research into new technologies is critical, as is the need for greater cooperation and regional planning,” says Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen. “The decision to progress with industrial activity in the Arctic will involve a ‘social licence to operate’ from the local communities and society at large. DNV GL will work together with the maritime industry and authorities to make the activity as safe and environmentally friendly as possible.”

DNV GL’s research indicates that it is advisable to adopt a stepwise approach which sees the least challenging locations developed before the harshest ones. This way, the technology and infrastructure have time to develop and risks can be kept at a level comparable to those in other parts of the world.


About DNV GL
Driven by its purpose of safeguarding life, property and the environment, DNV GL enables organisations to advance the safety and sustainability of their business. We provide classification and technical assurance services along with software and independent expert advisory services to the maritime, oil & gas and energy industries. We also provide certification services to customers across a wide range of industries. Operating in more than 100 countries, our 16,000 professionals are dedicated to helping our customers make the world safer, smarter and greener.