Arctic stakeholders gain momentum through historic forum

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft (right) and the heads of seven other Arctic nations' coast guards sign a joint statement that establishes the frameworks that detail the development of a multi-year strategic plan, avenues to share information, highlight best practices, identify training exercises, and on-the-water combined operations to achieve safe, secure and environmentally-responsible maritime activity in the Arctic.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft (right) and the heads of seven other Arctic nations’ coast guards sign a joint statement that establishes the frameworks that detail the development of a multi-year strategic plan, avenues to share information, highlight best practices, identify training exercises, and on-the-water combined operations to achieve safe, secure and environmentally-responsible maritime activity in the Arctic.

The United States Coast Guard has a rich history of operating in the Arctic, dating back to the acquisition of Alaska in the 1860s. More than 150 years of operations in one of the world’s most challenging environments has paved the way for recent historic events, including the Coast Guard Cutter Healy becoming the first U.S. surface vessel to reach the North Pole unaccompanied in September of last year.

Today, another milestone occurred when leaders representing all eight coast guard agencies of the Arctic nations signed a joint statement establishing the framework for the Arctic Coast Guard Forum’s multi-year strategic plan. The Arctic Coast Guard Forum membership includes Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Russian Federation and the United States.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft signs a joint statement that establishes the frameworks that detail the development of a multi-year strategic plan, avenues to share information, highlight best practices, identify training exercises, and on-the-water combined operations to achieve safe, secure and environmentally-responsible maritime activity in the Arctic.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft signs a joint statement that establishes the frameworks that detail the development of a multi-year strategic plan, avenues to share information, highlight best practices, identify training exercises, and on-the-water combined operations to achieve safe, secure and environmentally-responsible maritime activity in the Arctic.

Since the Arctic Coast Guard Forum was officially launched during a principals meeting in New London, Conn., last October, working groups have established strategies, objectives and tactics aimed towards achieving common operational goals in the region. In addition, agency representatives attended the Icelandic Search and Rescue Table Top Exercise in Reykjavik, Iceland, in April, sharing best practices and lessons learned.

“Today’s signing ceremony marks the culmination of months of collaboration by all eight Arctic coast guards,” said U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft. “The Arctic coast guards now have an established framework to exchange information and are finalizing a set of combined operating guidelines to enhance interoperability. This year we will hold a table top exercise culminating in a live exercise in 2017 to address safety of life at sea and the challenges of a mass rescue scenario as more and more cruise ships ply this harsh and unforgiving environment.”

The Arctic Coast Guard Forum will reconvene for an experts meeting in fall 2016.

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