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Home → May, 2009

Monthly Archives: May 2009 − News & Stories

Russian ship wrecked at Bjørnøya

The Russian freezing ship Petrozavodsk ran aground near the southern tip of Bear Island (Bjørnøya) on Monday, 11 May. The seas within one nautical mile from the shore are protected and may not be entered with vessels longer than 40 feet, as the cliffs are home to some of the largest seabird colonies of the north Atlantic; the numbers of breeding Brünich’s and Common guillemots amount to several hundred thousands and the breeding season is just about to begin. The Petrozavodsk is lying on a reef just under the cliffs, which frequently produce rockfalls, making removal of the wreck dangerous, if not impossible. The vessel, which was operating in the Barents sea together with Russian fishing ships, is damaged and seems to be loosing fuel, probably heavy oil, of which there seem to be about 53 tons on board.

Captain and first officer have been interviewed in Longyearbyen by the Sysselmannen and will be on trial in Norway. Both had alcohol in their blood upon arrival in Longyearbyen soon after the accident. The first mate was on watch at the time of the grounding, he was probably sleeping (really!).

Hard to believe, isn’t it?
The wreck of the Petrozavodsk just under the cliffs of Bjørnøya. Image © Kystverket

Russian ship wrecked at Bjørnøya

Source: Kystverket, Sysselmannen, Svalbardposten

First oil field  in the Barents sea opens in 2013

The Norwegian government has given permission to exploit the oil field “Goliat” with an estimated 174 million barrels oil north of Hammerfest. Production is supposed to start in 2013 under strict environmental conditions. Goliat will be the first Norwegian oil field in the arctic Barents sea; “Snøhvit” which is already in use is solely a gas field.

Fossil fuels: future technology for the Arctic, at least according to Norwegian plans
(this is the coal power plant in Barentsburg, admittedly slightly polemical)

First oil field  in the Barents sea opens in 2013

Source: Norwegische Regierung Pressemitteilung

New Spitsbergen-newspaper

It has often been said that the local newspaper “Svalbardposten” might well need some competition. Finally, the American journalist Mark Sabbatini, currently based in Longyearbyen, is now publishing “Icepeople – The world’s northernmost alternative newspaper”, on the web (click here). Spitsbergen.de wishes good succes!

(© icepeople)

New Spitsbergen-newspaper icepeople-Logo

Source: Icepeople

Russians lost court case concerning helicopter flights

The Norwegian-Russian legal dispute concerning possibly illegal helicopter flights has already been mention. In April, the “Nord-Norsk Tingrett” has passed its sentence: The Russians have to pay a sentence of 50.000 Norwegian crowner. The Russians claim that article 3 of the Spitsbergen Treaty provides equal rights to citizens of all signatory nations and might appeal.

Norwegian law is in force also in Barentsburg.

Russians lost court case concerning helicopter flights

Source: Svalbardposten (16/2009)

Coal mining in the Arctic on the way towards future  

Bjørn Arnestad, managing director of the Norwegian coal mining company “Store Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompani” (SNSK), has commented on the future of his company and on the Svalbard white paper of the Norwegian government that has recently been published (see below). There are enough coal reserves, including mines that do not exist yet, until 2023, but SNSK still needs to develop new business ideas for the time after 2023. Shipping services across the then most likely largely ice-free Arctic Ocean might be an option, according to Arnestad. About the white paper, he said that he is as satisfied with it as if he had written it himself, as the Norwegian governmnent puts clear emphasize on future coal mining on Spitsbergen.

The fact that there is a relationship between coal mining and climate change has obviously not had an influence on this strategical decision, although – officially – highest environmental standards are supposed to be paramount for all economic activities in Svalbard and climate change has been identified as the one major single threat to the arctic environment and ecosystems.

It seems almost ironic that the coal mining company SNSK might benefit from climate change by utilizing new shipping routes in then ice-free waters.

Coal mining: future activitity in the Arctic?
(mine 7 near Longyearbyen)

Coal mining in the Arctic

Source: Svalbardposten (16/2009)


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