Establishes Law of the Sea center in Tromsø

Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Melting sea ice the Arctic is opening for shipping and exploration of resources. But who owns the Arctic and which international rules should apply?


China, India, Japan and the European Union are all knock, knock, knocking on Arctic’s door. The question is expected to be a “hot-potato” when the member states of the Arctic Council get the Observer status applications on the desk at the up-coming Arctic Council meeting in Kiruna, northern Sweden, on May 15th.

Today, the University of Tromsø in northern Norway announced the establishment of a dedicated center for research on questions related to the law of the sea and other juridical topics regarding the role of international and national jurisdictions in the Arctic.

Some 15 experts on Arctic issues and Law of the Seas will be working with the new center. The Fridtjof Nansen Institute is partner. Funding comes from the Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Foundation, also branding the name of the new initiative; KG Jebsen Center for Ocean Law. 

“There is an urgent need to strengthen international research on the law of the sea, whether this is justified on environmental, nutritional or more political perspectives, says Kåre Romentveit, director of the Jebsen Foundation. He says an independent and strong research community could play an important role, especially international.

Professor Tore Henriksen with the Law faculty at the University of Tromsø will head the new center. 

“Norway is a nation with large ocean areas, but without strong national expertise on maritime law. We will be studying everything from climate and environmental challenges in the Arctic to piracy and terrorist threats at sea,” says Tore Henriksen. He hopes the law in the future can be used to counter the negative impacts climate change will have on the seas. Another question is how fisheries and oil exploration can coexist.

The current funding of the center is valid for the coming six years period.