"We are looking all the way up to 2040 and the traffic we can expect as a result of increased ice melting," said acting Maritime Safety Director Trond Langemyr. "In the future there will be much more shipping traffic to Europe coming north of Russia. And if we look much further ahead, in which some are predicting the possibility of sailing across the North Pole part of the year, there is clearly a need for greater safety at sea around Svalbard."
Work has already started on safety upgrades. The coast guard is planning to install new beacons at Akselsundet, and replace the sector light at Kapp Ekholm with a new and better type. The beacons have lights and operate using solar technology.
"The principle is that they charge enough electricity during the light periods to hold through dark times," Langemyr said. "LED lights consume very little power and the battery technology has come so far that this should be possible."
In addition to solar cells, the beacons have a wind generator that provides a power charge throughout the year.
The Coastal Administration states it also is planning the establishment of up to 14 land-based AIS stations in Svalbard (see map). AIS stands for Automatic Identification System and was introduced by the United Nations' International Maritime Organization. The system increases safety for both ships and the environment, and provide better opportunities for traffic monitoring and servicing sea traffic.
"The installations provide more continuously updated traffic monitoring than is the case with the satellite-based system largely used today," Langemyr said. "This is because the satellites can only provide information about traffic during the parts of the day they are on the right side of the Earth."
In addition, the AIS system offers a better picture of vessels situated in the fjords and make visible the smaller vessels that use AIS transmitters with low-output power.
Tools for the authorities
Langemyr said most people in Svalbard will take little notice the development of the systems. For those who working in search and rescue services it will be an important tool for operations involving ships in the waters around the archipelago. The AIS systems will also be important for The Governor of Svalbard.
"The governor will have access to all data continuously and can use it in their exercise of public duties in Svalbard," he said. "We are also working with web-based systems that will make it possible for anyone to see which ships are located in areas. But that is a little bit ahead in the future."