Environmental impact of naval operations in the Arctic

The objective of this project is to develop a framework by which an EIA consistent with industry best practices can be completed for any naval operation, regardless of location, temporal considerations, number and type of involved military assets, and duration.

It is anticipated that this framework will not only assist operational planners, but may also provide knowledge beneficial to improving the design of naval vessels. 

Together with the Canadian and Swedish navy, IMARES develops a procedure to implement the Environmental Impact Assessment step by step. The framework will be tested with the help of a real mission in Baffin Bay, Canada.

All vessels, whether naval or commercial, generate propulsion gases, produce bilge water, release VOCs from hull coatings, etc. A naval operation can therefore be thought to differ from a commercial maritime operation only in the activities that are, strictly speaking, military in nature. These include operational nature (for example, extended stay in open sea), hostile engagements, ship design parameters, ordnance use, replenishment-at-sea, sonar operation, aircraft operations and potentially others. Therefore, to permit efficient utilization of existing commercial/private efforts, information requirements for completion of a naval operation EIA will be divided into three components:

  1. The operational area ecosystem
  2. Maritime asset activities
  3. Military activities

Clearly the definition/description of these components cannot be exhaustive, particularly for the operational area ecosystem component.  Division into classes of marine ecosystems (littoral environments, deep ocean, etc.) will likely be required.  It is possible that similar division may be necessary within the activity components.  Therefore, a significant portion of the work conducted during the initial phase of the Project will revolve around adequately defining these boundary conditions.

Once the ecosystem and activities have been defined, the next step in completion of any EIA is determination of the linkages between activities and the operational area ecosystem as these linkages will enable assessment of the potential magnitude of impact. The EIA framework will be constructed around these linkages. It is envisioned that the resulting framework will utilize operator input of ecosystem and activity particulars to identify impacts and potential mitigative measures. Operators and policy developers could use these results to assist in determining proper conduct of the operation. 

The final stage of the project will consist of validation of the developed framework through modelling of past operations and, hopefully, opportunistic naval trials. The linkages between ecosystem and activities identified by the framework will be assessed for veracity and, if necessary, modifications to the framework structure or classification system will be made.  


  • In progress