House Joint Resolution 19, which passed last night in Juneau by a vote of 33-6, urges Gov. Bill Walker and the state’s congressional delegation, to include Arctic Marine Safety Agreements in international agreements with Alaska’s coastal neighbors.
Rep. Dean Westlake, a Democrat from the Northwest Alaska community of Kiana, is the sponsor of the resolution. Westlake said the Arctic presents tremendous opportunity, but also challenges.
Vessels transiting the Bering Sea that don’t call on US ports are not subject to US and Alaska safety or spill prevention measures. The inclusion of Arctic Marine Safety Agreements, which may include spill prevention measures and vessel monitoring requirements, has support from the Arctic Waterways Safety Commission, with representatives from Arctic municipalities, marine mammal hunting groups, and ship operators.
Westlake said he supports development of the region and shipping that lowers the costs of goods worldwide, but wants to make sure it is done as safely as possible.
The resolution now goes to the Alaska State Senate for consideration.