"Located in US and Russian Federation territorial waters off the coasts of Alaska and the Chukotskiy Peninsula, the routes are being recommended to help ships avoid the numerous shoals, reefs and islands outside the routes and to reduce the potential for marine casualties and environmental disasters," said US Coast Guard.

The proposed two-way routes will be voluntary for all domestic and international ships. Moreover, no additional Aids to Navigation (ATON) are being proposed to mark the recommended two-way routes and the routing measures do not limit commercial fishing or subsistence activities.

Over the past decade, the two countries have both observed a steady increase in Arctic shipping traffic, which increases the risk of maritime casualties, according to Mike Sollosi, the chief of the USCG Navigation Standards Division. According to data provided by the Russian Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport earlier this week, the Northern Sea Route alone saw a record volume of 9.7 million tons of cargo shipped last year, the biggest annual volume ever.

The bilateral proposal is designed to address the risk of the increased traffic, by providing adequate sea room for ships and a maximum amount of flexibility in avoiding ice and enabling better monitoring of ships' transits. 

“The U.S. Coast Guard is engaging international and interagency partners across borders in developing joint proposals for ship routes in waterways that we share,” said Mr. Sollosi.