According to the newsprovider High North News a compromise made in 1988 between USA and Canada about who holds the rights to the Northwest Passage seems to be cracking.
The two countries disagree on legislation. “The USA argues that these areas are subject to public international law and that the USA thus holds right of innocent passage according to the UN Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). However, this argument does not hit home with the Canadians.“
However, “Canada remains committed to exercising the full extent of its rights and sovereignty over its territory and its Arctic waters, including the various waterways commonly referred to as the Northwest Passage.“
Accordingly the fear of diplomatic crisis is rising even though the debate about the Northwest Passage is far from being new.
As mentioned in the news article „The Northwest Passage is a waterway meandering through Canadian waters, however, it is nevertheless the fastest and most efficient way for moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
As early as in the 1950s and 1960s, the USA claimed that the passage should be considered an international strait in accordance with the UN Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). However, Canada countered that since the route had never been actively used, it could not be claimed in the same way as for instance the Suez Canal or the Panama Canal – where anyone is free to pass through. They consider the Northwest passage Canadian waters with internal restrictions.
The USA wants freedom of navigation because that underpins the principle of free international trade, on which the US’ power and strength is built, and she is willing to go far to maintain that principle.
However, Canada fears that by opening up, they will lose control over what goes on in the High North.
The Northwest Passage is a rather meandering waterway going through Canadian waters, however, it is nevertheless the fastest and most efficient way for moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. As early as in the 1950s and 1960s, the USA claimed that the passage should be considered an international strait in accordance with the UN Law of the Seas (UNCLOS)
The USA has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not accept the Canadian view. The last time was in 1985, when the Polar Sea icebreaker was sent through the Northwest Passage without requesting permission, a move that evoked diplomatic shock waves on both sides.“
The increase in traffic in the area is considerable or as according to the Canadian Coast Guard from 11 in 1988 to 47 in 2016. The passage has also become available for other vessels than Icebreakers due to climate change and melting ice.
Source: High North News
Map: Arctic Portal