Case Studies

Arctic Maritime Safety

Researching historical perspectives on current safety challenges

Grant Awarded: £500,000

Time Frame: April 2024 - August 2026



The University of the Arctic (UArctic) has launched a new research fellowship programme following recent funding from Lloyd’s Register Foundation. The programme is part of a new partnership exploring 'maritime safety: learning from the past to address challenges to the safety of peoples in the Arctic.'

The programme will deliver new insights, evidence and case materials to policy and change makers, and in parallel it will also explore further opportunities for collaboration. The programme was shaped by two discovery seminar - the first seminar brought together a broad community of interest around the topic of ‘Arctic Maritime Safety: Learning from the past to help address the challenges to the safety of peoples in the Arctic’ and sought contributions and proposals for research to be considered for the programme. The aim is to substantially raise the profile of safety as a key issue in future management of the highly complex Arctic marine system at a time of profound environmental and geopolitical change.

A key objective of the work is to build research expertise and to extend the reach of the LRF mission in the Arctic marine system through developing connection with the extended number of institutions associated with UArctic, hence leveraging the UArctic communications programme for wider LRF outreach. The fact that UArctic includes partners from beyond the Arctic region (such as institutions from China and South Korea) means that in capacity and reach UArctic is truly reflective of the extensive stakeholder landscape that must be navigated to achieve change.

The maritime Arctic is undergoing profound changes. Climate change is reducing sea ice cover, opening up new sea routes, and affecting the distribution of commercial fisheries, as well as impacting global weather systems. We have seen a steady increase in ship traffic of all kinds across the Arctic; more fishing vessels, merchant ships, research vessels and cruise ships. This presents both opportunities and challenges for Indigenous and local communities, such as communities in Inuit Nunangat or commercial fishing communities in Iceland. It also presents new risks to the environment and to the safety of these communities as well as the people onboard ships. 

However, these changes are not only impacting the present, but have also done so in the past. People have explored new Arctic routes for generations and transitioned between different means of powering ships and the infrastructures to support them. We have an opportunity to learn from the past to help us better navigate the challenges of today and to do so in a way that is equitable and inclusive. The new fellowship programme will take this opportunity and do so in a way that builds both connections and capacities for maritime research in the Arctic.

The first call for research highlights three interlinked topics:

  • ‘Ice histories’ and the opportunity to integrate different historic perspectives and insights into sea ice with the modern technologies and regulations that guide shipping today.
  • Safely navigating new sea routes’ and the opportunity to learn from experiences of opening up new sea routes in the Arctic in the past (e.g. the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage)
  • ‘Cruise ships in the cold as a specific case of new maritime traffic in the Arctic that raises not only opportunities but also safety concerns and challenges to local infrastructure and its capacity to respond to incidents.



UArctic have launched the call for applications for the 2024 Research Fellowships. Further information on the fund can be found here. Information on the application process can be found here.