EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corporation PR) — For decades, the dense sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean has been shrinking and, in some regions, disappearing altogether. This environmental change is dramatically altering areas that were once blocked by ice and creating open water that is being turned into shipping lanes for an increasing number of vessels looking for a faster route between Asia, eastern North America and Europe.
According to data from the U.S. Committee On The Marine Transportation System, the number of vessels operating in the Arctic region has increased from 52 in 2008 to 144 in 2013. The committee predicts that the Arctic Ocean will see 2,111 vessels by 2025. This rapid increase in traffic through a dynamic environment like the Arctic has made U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) missions especially challenging while underscoring the need for prompt and reliable emergency distress signal response.