Inuit work towards greater voice in shipping as IMO meeting gets underway

The global shipping industry produces three per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. (Karim Sahib/Getty Images)

As an International Maritime Organization (IMO) Sub-committee meeting on ship construction got underway in London on Monday, the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) says it will continue to work towards Inuit having a greater voice in shipping. 

“For generations, our communities have thrived in balance with the Arctic environment,” Lisa Koperqualuk, the ICC Vice Chair, and head of delegation at the IMO, said in a statement on Monday.

“As our homeland faces unprecedented changes, it’s crucial that Inuit Knowledge and stewardship practices are incorporated into international maritime regulations and governance to protect our way of life.”

On Monday, ICC said its strategy for greater Inuit involvement in the IMO includes the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge in its work, a call for a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas by the shipping industry and protection of the Arctic environment.

“Through our advocacy at the IMO, the ICC will champion the rights and well-being of Inuit, highlighting the importance of Indigenous Knowledge in global environmental governance,” ICC Chair Sara Olsvig said

Tackling underwater noise

The reduction of underwater noise pollution is one of the topics at this week’s IMO meeting, an issue also part of the ICC strategy.

Underwater noise can be produced by everything from ship propellers to the form of a boat’s hull to on-board machinery.

The effect of noise on marine life has become an increasing concern in some Inuit communities.

The Arctic Council, comprising eight Arctic countries and six Indigenous groups, has reported on the impact of underwater noise on species like whales, Arctic cod, and shorthorn sculpin, and Inuit communities, particularly on Canada’s Baffin Island, have raised alarms about increased shipping affecting marine mammals like narwhal.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) approved guidelines in 2014 to address commercial shipping noise.

A file photo of narwhals in the Canadian Arctic. The impact of underwater noise pollution on marine mammals is becoming an increasing concern. (David Goldman/AP/The Canadian Press)

The guidelines give recommendations for shipbuilders and operators, covering  hull and propeller design, standardized noise measurement, and strategic placement of on-board machinery to mitigate underwater noise.

However, ICC has previously said the progress has been slow due to their voluntary nature. 

“The ICC proposes aggressive measures to reduce and eliminate pollution such as black carbon emissions which increase local warming and ice melt, along with discharges of greywater and the use of scrubbers that dump toxic effluent in important ocean areas,” ICC said in their Monday statement.

“Additionally, the ICC seeks to halve underwater radiated noise from ships by 2030, addressing a critical concern for Inuit communities reliant on marine ecosystems for well-being and livelihoods.”

Working towards greater voice at IMO

ICC is also aiming for full consultative status at the IMO. It has had  provisional consultative status in 2021.

“The ICC is seeking full consultative status at the IMO by 2025, aiming to ensure Inuit voices are integral in decision-making processes, particularly in acknowledging how global matters impact the Arctic region of Inuit Nunaat and vice-versa,” the organization said.

“This status will enable the ICC to offer direct input into IMO regulations, reflecting the unique needs and perspectives of Inuit communities.

The IMO meeting runs until Jan. 26.

ICC represents the approximately 180,000 Inuit in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka, Russia.

Comments, tips or story ideas? Contact Eilís at eilis.quinn(at) 

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Canada comes out in favour of heavy fuel oil ban in Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finland investigates oil leak risks from Baltic Sea shipwrecks, Yle News

Greenland: Arctic Council report analyzes flag states and legal obligations in Arctic shipping, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland to restrict heavy fuel oil use in territorial waters, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: LNG-reloading operations end in Norway’s Arctic waters, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Shipping figures rising on Russia’s Northern Sea Route, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Carnival Corporation ships switch to cleaner fuel on Arctic cruises, Radio Canada International

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.
Netiquette »

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *