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Project: Singapore and the Arctic

Singapore and the Arctic

                                                                                                                                                                                              Image Copyright: Jean Pierre MARGAIX

In May 2013 Singapore gained observer status to the Arctic Council. Although it is a tropical country situated far from the Arctic, Singapore has three main interests in the High North. 

First, a long-standing, proactive involvement in international forums that address global governance issues. Since independence, Singapore has been an active participant in global governance forums and institutions so that it can help shape positive outcomes in areas that affect its core interests, such as ocean management, international shipping and maritime legal regimes. 

Second, a desire to better understand and respond to climate change. As a low-lying island less than fifteen meters above sea level, Singapore is acutely vulnerable to rising sea levels, caused in part by the melting of glaciers in the Arctic. In order to update its assumptions about climate change and ensure that appropriate protective measures are implemented, Singapore wants to better understand environmental changes in the Arctic, where temperatures are rising twice as fast as in other parts of the world. 

Third, Singapore has economic interests in the Arctic. The country’s maritime industries are keen to develop and market cutting-edge technologies that will be required to develop Arctic resources in the coming decades, especially drilling platforms. However, even as rapid sea ice retreat makes these resources more accessible, it also raises the prospect of higher volumes of traffic on trade routes through the Arctic Ocean, which provide considerably shorter sailing times between Europe and Asia, and could divert shipping away from Singapore.

This research project examines Singapore’s role and interests in Arctic affairs in three areas: the country’s successful bid for observer status to the Arctic Council and the expected contributions it can make to Arctic governance; the potential commercial opportunities for Singaporean companies; and whether Arctic shipping routes will pose a challenge to the city-state’s status as a global maritime transshipment hub.


For more information about this project, please contact Ian Storey at ijstorey@iseas.edu.sg