As the Arctic ice sheet shrinks, shipping will begin to move from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific across northern Norway and Russia, and across northern Canada and Alaska. Both routes meet in the Chukchi Sea, merge, and transit the Bering Strait. Oil development, commercial fishing, tourism, scientific research, and military patrols are also going to contribute traffic.
All of this will require infrastructure: ports, bases for sea-going tugs, air facilities, search and rescue bases, prepositioned oil spill response equipment, and aids to navigation.
The U.S. Coast Guard will be setting up its first Arctic Ocean base - probably at Barrow - next Spring: New Coast Guard Task in Arctic’s Warming Seas . It's also begun discussions with the Russians on comtrol of traffic through the Bering Strait (Matthew Wald and Andrew Revkin, New York Times, October 19):
For most of human history, the Arctic Ocean has been an ice-locked frontier. But now, in one of the most concrete signs of the effect of a warming climate on government operations, the Coast Guard is planning its first operating base there as a way of dealing with the cruise ships and the tankers that are already beginning to ply Arctic waters.
...the Coast Guard has also begun discussions with the Russians about controlling anticipated ship traffic through the Bering Strait....
The Coast Guard says its base, which would probably be near the United States’ northernmost town, Barrow, Alaska, on the North Slope coast, would be seasonal and would initially have just a helicopter equipped for cold-weather operations and several small boats.
But given continued warming, that small base, which could be in place by next spring, would be expanded later to help speed responses to oil spills from tankers that the Coast Guard believes could eventually carry shipments from Scandinavia to Asia through the Bering Strait. Such a long-hoped-for polar route would cut 5,000 miles or more from a journey that would otherwise entail passage through the Panama Canal or the Suez.
The Coast Guard is also concerned about being able to respond to emergencies involving cruise ships, which are already starting to operate in summers in parts of the Arctic Ocean.
And in yet a further kind of new activity abetted by warming seas, Royal Dutch Shell is preparing for exploratory oil drilling off Alaska’s Arctic coast beginning next year....
Map of Alaska's Arctic Coast is from the NYT article.