With increased melting of sea ice in the Arctic and more attention being paid to the Arctic, human activity has started to increase in the region. This has already led to increases in ship-borne tourism and will lead to more shipping of many types. As a result, the United States and the seven other Arctic Council (AC) Member States (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden) adopted a Ministerial Declaration in April 2009 in Tromso, Norway, which established a Task Force with the mandate of developing a Search and Rescue (SAR) agreement for the Arctic. The United States hosted the first meeting of the Arctic SAR Task Force during December 9-11, 2009, in Washington, D.C. The next round of negotiations is scheduled for February 25-26, 2010, in Moscow, Russian Federation. The Arctic SAR Task Force has been asked to finalize the Arctic SAR agreement such that it can be presented for adoption by the AC at its Ministerial meeting in Spring 2011.
The United States is at the forefront of efforts to promote safety in the Arctic. The Department of State’s Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs is coordinating federal interagency interest to negotiate an instrument for the saving of lives at sea and the rescue of survivors after aircraft accidents in the Arctic. The U.S. Coast Guard is a prominent agency participating in this effort. With so few resources available for SAR in the Arctic, developing a regional agreement to set baseline standards for greater international cooperation and coordination will be of great value.