Operating in the Arctic does not have to be high risk. Vessels have traded in the region for many years with only a limited number of incidents, while oil and gas activities in arctic conditions have a long and ultimately successful history.
However, as industry eyes new regional frontiers - with more severe ice, deeper waters and more remote areas – new challenges arise. The key to addressing them lies in a combination of research and a proactive approach. Gathering information and qualifying new and existing solutions is central to future developments, but in areas with larger operational challenges and increased ‘event’ consequences, there is a need for more effective barriers and a structured risk management approach. Key elements within this approach should be, in order of importance:
Measures that facilitate safe practices by removing a hazard or an unwanted effect (such as restricting operations in certain areas altogether)
Preventive measures that reduce the likelihood of problems occurring, or reduce the likelihood of a hazard leading to an incident
Consequence-reducing measures that control the effects of an accident
Measures that require external assistance (these should be secondary to measures based on self-support and robust operations)
Preventive and consequence-reducing measures (barriers) can be of a technical, organisational and human nature. Technical measures should always be guided by clear operating principles. It is also vital, particularly in rapidly changing Arctic conditions, to keep a continuous overview of the status of hazards, to keep the risk register updated and to actively use the risk analysis in decision making.