AGF-819 Shipping in the Arctic (5 ECTS)

Storbreen, Hornsund, Svalbard

Course schedule

September 16, 2019
September 27, 2019
Autumn semester (September), annually
5 ECTS with AGF-319 and AGF-219.
Pass / fail
Lecture material and referenced literature from each of the disciplines.
10/20 students (AGF-319/819 in total)
April 15, 2019


Stein Sandven
Stein Sandven
Adjunct Professor, Remote sensing

UNIS contact person: Dag Lorentzen

Course requirements:

Enrolment in a relevant PhD programme. Knowledge at bachelor level in one or more of the disciplines: Mathematics, physics, geoscience, biology, engineering, economy, law, or relevant social sciences.

Academic content:

The course is interdisciplinary, providing lectures on climate, sea ice, weather, environment, navigation, technology (including vessel types, winterization, green energy, digitalization), infrastructure (harbours, communication, services), economy, regulations, and geopolitics related to shipping in the Arctic. The lectures will address how the human factors combined with the natural environment have impact on shipping activities. The different actors involved in the specialized fields and how they interact with each other will be presented. The lectures will give a historic summary, a present state-of-the-art and future perspectives of Arctic shipping from a multidisciplinary perspective.

Learning outcomes:

The students will have attained advanced interdisciplinary knowledge about the factors that determine types, quantities and routes of Arctic ship traffic. The course shall give the students deeper academic understanding of how climate, environmental, and socioeconomic drivers have impact on shipping in the Arctic where sea transportation is expected to grow in the future. The reduction of the Arctic sea ice and the demand for energy gives new opportunities for shipping routes between Europe, Russia, Asia, and North America. Especially, the exploitation of hydrocarbon and other resources as well as tourism and scientific exploration generate more ship traffic in Arctic regions. The presence of sea ice, darkness, limitations of bathymetric charts, lack of infrastructure and communication services put severe limitations on how ships can operate. The students will attain advanced knowledge on how shipping is constrained by regulations, environmental risks, economic risks and geopolitical situations.

Upon completing the course, the students will:
have obtained forefront knowledge about the factors that determine the shipping activities in the Arctic. These include

  • economic factors related to resource exploitation and global/regional sea transport routes
  • environmental factors related to climate, sea ice and weather conditions, as well as pollution related to ship traffic
  • technology (vessel types, winterization, green energy, digitalization) and infrastructure (harbours, communication, services) required for ships operating in the Arctic
  • regulatory and geopolitical considerations, including the Polar Code
  • assessment of risks and opportunities related to ship traffic

The course will provide forefront knowledge of how these factors will determine the evolution of Arctic shipping in shorter and longer perspective.

Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • have learned skills to analyze development of Arctic ship traffic at the present time and what is expected in the future
  • have learned to extract and combine information from different scientific disciplines about the factors driving the ship traffic as well as limiting the ship traffic. This skill will be used to analyze a set of research problems and write a scientific report on selected topics within the course plan.
  • have learned to assess pros and cons regarding ship traffic in the Arctic, based on the factors described in the knowledge section above.
  • have skills to use relevant methods to carry out independent and forefront research on multidisciplinary topics related to Arctic shipping.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • have obtained competence to analyze research problems on Arctic shipping within and beyond the topics addressed in the course
  • have gained competence to carry out independent research on a wider scope of multidisciplinary topics
  • have competence to write scientific reports and publications about Arctic shipping topics
  • have competence to generate new ideas and research questions
  • have competence to communicate with specialists as well as the general public

Learning activities:

The course extends over ca. 2 weeks including compulsory safety training, and is run in combination with AGF-319.

The course consists of lectures given by invited specialists in each of the disciplines, seminars where the students have dialogue with the lecturers, group work, and writing a report on given topics. The group work includes literature search, discussions within the groups and with the lecturers. The outcome of the course is a report from each of the groups and a summary of the discussions. The students will lead some of the seminars and give individual presentations of selected topics at the end of the course

Total lecture hours: 24 hours
Total seminar hours: 18 hours
Preparation hours: 12 hours
Exercursions: 4 hours
Group work to write report: 86 hours
Total: 144 hours

Compulsory learning activities:

At least 80% attendance at lectures and seminars.

All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to be registered for the final assessment.


Method Percentage of final grade
Group report 100%


Application deadline: 15 April 2019




Ship in ice in Svalbard

A ship in ice covered waters around Svalbard. Photo: Malin Daase/UNIS.

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The University Centre in Svalbard
Telephone: +47 79 02 33 00
Fax: +47 79 02 33 01
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