In March 2014, Gustaf Lind, Senior Arctic Official for Sweden, spoke in London at a Conference on Sustainable Arctic Shipping and Marine Operations organized and supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, the Embassy of Sweden in London and the Nordic Council of Ministers. In a brief interview, Mr. Lind spoke about Sweden's specific experience, knowledge and skills in this area.

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In March 2014, Gustaf Lind, Senior Arctic Official for Sweden, spoke in London at a Conference on Sustainable Arctic Shipping and Marine Operations organized and supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, the Embassy of Sweden in London and the Nordic Council of Ministers. In a brief interview, Mr. Lind spoke about the specific experience, knowledge and skills that Sweden can contribute to the sustainable development of Arctic shipping.

Could you talk a little bit about Sweden’s experience in Arctic shipping?

Well, you may know that Sweden has many harbors in the northern reaches of the Baltic Sea, from which we export wood pulp and iron. Those waterways are often frozen during winter, and thus we have very long experience in icebreaking. And even though we do not have coast on the Arctic Ocean, that experience has always meant that Swedes have been present in Arctic waters. The Swedish icebreaker Oden is among the best scientific heavy icebreakers in the world, along with Germany’s Polarstern and the United States’ Healy, just to name a few. In fact, the Oden and Polarstern worked together to be the first non-nuclear surface vessels to reach the North Pole back in 1991, which is a great example of international collaboration on this front.

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How can Sweden bring unique value to the development of sustainable shipping in the Arctic?

Sweden can definitely contribute its long history in this area and its deep experience. That was clearly in evidence here at this event, where icebreaker captains from Sweden (Anders Backman, Tomas Årnell, Mattias Peterson) were broadly praised by the attendees for working at much higher standards of safety and expertise than regulations require. I think the key to sustainable Arctic shipping will be – first – valuing and nurturing the existing experience that our expert seamen have acquired, and – second – ensuring that we create standards and regulations to ensure that newcomers to the field work with the necessary competence and respect for safety and for the environment. Getting the balance between these two things right is the difficult part.

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Can you share any good stories that illustrate how Sweden collaborates with its colleagues in this area?

Well, one good example is icebreaking in the Gulf of Bothnia. True, it may not be the Arctic per se, but it is a good example nonetheless. In the Gulf of Bothnia, Sweden and Finland are pooling icebreaking capacity. These resources are enormously expensive, and sharing them is the best way to move forward. In the Gulf of Bothnia, sometimes the heavier ice is on the Finnish side, and then we help them out. Sometimes, it is the other way around. So by pooling our resources in this way, we can really get the most out of our icebreakers. In the Gulf of Bothnia icebreaking is most relevant in winter, but in the summer it could be possible for us to engage some of our fleet more in the Arctic. At this event, it was rather evident that more icebreaker capacity will be needed in the Arctic in the future. We in Sweden need to invest in new icebreaking capacity, and we are working on that. So, too, are our neighbors the Finns and the Russians. In general, a lot of infrastructure is still needed in the Arctic, and I think – because of the vastness of the region – the best way to meet that need is through international cooperation.

For more information on the conference “Sustainable Arctic Shipping and Marine Operations”, see this article from the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat.

For a backgrounder on the Arctic Council, click here.