S'pore 'can lend maritime expertise' to Arctic Council

SINGAPORE will be able to contribute its knowledge on maritime matters and climate change to projects in the exclusive Arctic Council, said Norway's senior Arctic official Else Berit Eikeland.

The Republic will be invited to an Arctic Council meeting in Tromso, Norway next January where it will be asked to present its views on how it can contribute directly to Arctic projects.

Singapore, she said, had "knowledge and expertise in offshore and maritime work, maritime transportation and shipping".

It was also concerned about climate change and could "be an important partner in raising global awareness of climate change in this part of the world", she said.

Singapore was also keen to help the indigenous people in the Arctic region improve their lives, she said, adding: "We think that is very, very important."

Singapore joined the Arctic Council as a permanent observer last year. Currently it can only watch but not speak at the council's main ministerial meetings.

Speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of a Norway-Singapore Arctic Symposium on Friday, she said that Norway will also talk to other countries which have observer status, about how they too can play a more significant role in the council's work.

Singapore, along with China, India, Japan, South Korea and Italy were admitted as observers to the council. There are 26 other permanent observers.

The council, formed in 1996, groups the eight Arctic nations - the US, Russia, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. The body addresses issues faced by Arctic governments.

The region's sea ice is thawing, and this is opening up shipping routes and intensifying competition for oil and gas - estimated at 15 per cent and 30 per cent respectively of undiscovered reserves.

Arctic developments have important implications for Singapore. As a low-lying island, it is vulnerable to rising sea levels. As the ice melts, a new shipping route via the North Pole is also appearing and this could also divert shipping away from the Republic.

The symposium was organised by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the Norwegian Embassy. About 100 shipping officials, academics and diplomats attended the event.

At the event, MPA chief executive Andrew Tan, said Singapore followed closely the developments in Arctic shipping. As an observer to the Arctic Council, Singapore shares its knowledge and experience in emergency response planning and prevention of marine oil pollution in the council's working groups, he said.

mnirmala@sph.com.sg


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