• This map created by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that current Arctic shipping lanes overlap significant and often sensitive wildlife habitat. (Map courtesy Pew Charitable Trusts.)

A new framework of tiered shipping routes will make shipping in the Arctic a safer, more affordable process, according to a report released yesterday by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Building on an initiative started by the Canadian Coast Guard in 2012, Pew’s Integrated Arctic Corridors Framework report suggests more planning is needed to confront issues posed by the growing number of vessels operating in the area. Vessel traffic through the Northwest Passage alone has increased by 166 per cent since 2004.

The report recommends increasing the authority of Inuit communities in the region, decreasing known risks to the environment and helping mariners travel the safest possible routes in the Arctic.

Three key recommendations from the report include: engaging Inuit leaders and communities; creating a governance and management strategy for people planning to use the shipping corridor; and highlighting passageways that meet environmental standards in particularly sensitive areas.

The report is also designed to evolve with the changing conditions of the Arctic’s “dynamic and complex” environment.

The warming Arctic Ocean and continued recession of the polar ice pack has resulted in a much longer shipping season in the North. For years, academics, activist groups and other governmental entities have tried to improve shipping practices in the Arctic. According to the report, transport policies currently in place do “not sufficiently account for the environmental and social complexity of the region.”

Canada and other countries use corridors in the Arctic to transport minerals, oil, gas and other commercial products.