Proposal for a mandatory ship routeing system in northern Norway for consideration at IMO´s Sub-committee on Navigation (Nav 52) in June 2006

The Government of Norway proposes to establish a traffic separation scheme off the north and west coast of Norway from Vardø to Røst. The routeing measure is proposed as a mandatory traffic separation scheme for tankers of all sizes, including gas and chemical tankers, and all other cargo ships of 5,000 gross tonnage and upwards, in transit or on international voyages to or from Norwegian ports. This will in general include ships with a bunker capacity of more than 300 m3. 

Ships sailing to and from Northwest Russia and Northern Norway pass through the waters off the coast of Norway from Vardø to Røst. The number of tankers passing has increased in recent years and is expected to increase considerably in the near future as bulk shipments increase. In 2004 and 2005 a number of incidents off the Norwegian coast of ships losing propulsion were reported, nine of which were above 5,000 dwt. 

The proposed mandatory traffic separation scheme is designed to increase safety for ships in transit, for the fisheries and offshore petroleum exploration and production, and to mitigate environmental risk, especially taking into account the predicted future tanker traffic. 

The proposed routeing measure entails moving the tankers and other cargo ship routes out from the coast to minimise the risk of grounding and to separate north- and southbound traffic to avoid collisions. The traffic will be monitored from Vardø VTS (operational in 2007). Moving the ships further out from the coast than today's average route for passage will give sufficient time to handle any casualty situation by i.a. the towing contingency which has already been established. 

The westbound (outer) traffic lane of the proposed scheme is at a distance from land where:

(1) the fishing activity is limited;

(2) it is in general clear of offshore oil and gas exploration and production activity.  

The eastbound (inner) traffic lane is closer to land, and located such that:

(1) most fisheries are not affected;

(2) it is in general clear of offshore oil and gas exploration and production activity.  

Traffic considerations:

Offshore petroleum exploration and production is expected to take place either outside of the traffic separation scheme or within the traffic separation zone. 

In order to establish an overall system for safe oil transport along the northern coast of Norway, it is important to establish a mandatory ship routeing and traffic separation scheme for tankers and other cargo ships further off the coast of northern Norway from Vardø to Røst. 

The distance off the coast has an impact on the nautical and environmental risk related to a passage. Firstly, the distance influences the probability of an incident occurring:

  • Ships sailing at some distance off the coast can still pass clear of the coast even if a navigational error leads to an unsafe course;
  • There will be less interaction with fishing vessels operating near to the coast.

Secondly, it influences the consequences of an incident because there will be more time for the provision of contingency services, such as:

  • tugs for a ship that is in need of assistance due to on-board defects such as loss of propulsion or steering etc.;
  • equipment for emergency unloading of bunker or cargo, and other measures to prevent environmental damage. 

The proposed mandatory traffic separation scheme compared with alternative routes: 

Route based on the former 4 nautical mile territorial sea limit - 525'

Route based on the 12 nautical mile territorial sea limit  - 539'

Proposed new route - eastbound (inner) traffic lane - 558'

Proposed new route - westbound (outer) traffic lane - 567'

Average route used by tankers as of early 2004  - 560'

The eastbound traffic lane of the proposed mandatory traffic separation scheme is not any longer than the present average route, while the westbound route is marginally longer. When taking into account the ocean currents in the area, this is expected to give a negligible additional passage time for westbound ships. Passage time and fuel consumption for a round trip following the proposed mandatory traffic separation scheme is consequently expected to be equal to or less than for the present used route. 

Click here for the full submission.  

Contact: Fredrik Larsson