AGF-319 Shipping in the Arctic (5 ECTS)






April 15, 2023


September 18, 2023


September 29, 2023


Autumn semester (September), annually

Ship in front of Storbreen, Hornsund, Svalbard. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS.

Course Cost:None
Course Capacity Min/Max:10/20 students (AGF-319/819 in total)
Language of instruction:English
Examination support material:Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue

Course requirements

Enrolment in a relevant master 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 interdisciplinary knowledge about the factors that determine types, quantities and routes of Arctic ship traffic. The course shall give the students insight into 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 learn how shipping is constrained by regulations, environmental risks, economic risks and geopolitical situations.

Upon completing the course, the students will:


Upon completing the course, the students will have obtained advanced knowledge about 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 advanced knowledge of how these factors will determine the evolution of Arctic shipping in shorter and longer perspective.


  • have learned skills to analyze development of various types 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 will be used to analyze a set of questions.
  • have learned to assess risks and opportunities for different types of ship traffic in the Arctic, based on the factors described in the knowledge section above
  • be able to use relevant methods to carry out independent research on limited topics within the course.

General competences

  • have obtained competence to analyze research problems on Arctic shipping topics
  • have gained competence to carry out research on multidisciplinary topics within the course
  • have competence to write a report about the multidisciplinary topics
  • 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-819.

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 the student work.


  • Total lecture hours: 24 hours
  • Total seminar hours: 18 hours
  • Exercursions: 4 hours
  • Group work to write report: 74 hours
  • Total: 120 hours

Compulsory learning activities

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

  • At least 80% attendance at lectures and seminars


MethodPercentage of final grade
Group report100%

Student life


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