Foreign Clearances

IBCAO Bathymetry with EEZ Maritime Boundaries Map

As a general rule, a US vessel may pass through a foreign countries territorial seas (TS) and exclusive economic zones (EEZ) freely but may not collect data there without advance permission. Research operations and data collection require advanced permission. As a matter of precaution, any operations within 200 miles of any land mass should be discussed with the USCG Marine Science Coordinator to investigate the implications and requirements of working in foreign waters. We also recommend reading the UNOLS Foreign Clearance Manual prior to any foreign operations. You can also visit the State Departments Ocean web site.

In addition to requesting clearance through the US state department to conduct marine research in non-US EEZ waters, the chief scientist should also be aware that other nations have indigenous communities living in the Arctic which have additional requirements for conducting research in or adjacent to their communities.  The Canadian Northwest Territories, for example, require a research license administered through two online licensing program:, and the Environmental Impact Sceening committe for the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.

It is the responsibility of the Chief Scientist to immediately inform the Marine Science Coordinator of any plans to work within the 200 mile limit using the Foreign Clearance Cruise Prospectus (prospectus is also available on the State Department Web Page). The USCG will initiate requests for clearance following the instructions found in the US State Departments Notice to Research Vessel Operators No. 67. The Marine Science Coordinator will collaborate with the Chief Scientist to complete the necessary forms and the official clearance application will be submitted to the State Department by the US Coast Guard. These forms include the State Department form # 11121 (Form 11121 is also available on the State Department Web Page) and/or country specific forms which can be found on the State Departments Notice To Research Vessel Operators Web Page. Greenland/Denmark requires an additional form "Project Proposal/Data Sheet for U.S. Scientific Research in Greenland. ".

These clearance requests must be handled through the U.S. Department of State and the Foreign Office of the country concerned and may require 7 to 8 months lead time. U.S. Department of State Notice to Research Vessel Operators #68, Rev. 5 states the Advance Notice Requirements for Foreign Research Clearance Requests.

The ship’s Master is forbidden to carry out research in legally recognized territorial seas and Exclusive Economic Zones unless prior permission has been obtained and there is documentary evidence to that effect. Changes to cruises while underway, which would involve work not previously planned in territorial waters, will not normally be approved.

There is an increasing tendency for countries to attach conditions to clearances. Official observers or scientific participants normally will have to be carried on board ship or be involved in the processing of the scientific results. Additional port calls may be necessary to accommodate foreign observers. The host nation may require sharing of samples and data; at a minimum they require copies of technical reports and papers.

Transportation and subsistence costs for foreign participation may have to be provided. These costs are the responsibility of the Chief Scientist. He/she should provide for these costs in the scientific program budget and make allowances for integrating foreign participants into the cruise. Additional costs associated with foreign ports, such as fees and expenses for embarking and debarking the scientific party, are the responsibility of the Chief Scientist.

As conditions for permitting work in their waters, foreign countries will require reports that need to be submitted to the host country through the U.S. Department of State. It is the responsibility of the Chief Scientist to prepare and submit the reports directly to the Department of State, with copies to USCG Icebreaker Operations. The Chief Scientist is responsible for meeting all post-cruise obligations as specified in the clearance approval document sent prior to the cruise. The host nations may also require sharing of samples and data. U.S. Department of State Notice to Research Vessel Operators #66 defines the Post Cruise Obligations.

It is most important that the terms of whatever conditions are imposed are clearly understood by both parties, and that the Chief Scientist be fully prepared to carry out the agreement. Failure to do so will make it much more difficult for other researchers to gain access to coastal waters and could result in the defaulting scientist not being granted ship time in the future.

Port call clearances will be handled through official channels within the US Coast Guard and will generally be initiated by the ship once the schedule is finalized.

The US State Department released this draft map in June 2008 which shows the Established Maritime boundaries in the Arctic Region. It also list the Latitude and Longitude for the geographic points along the boundaries. For more information please contact Brian Van Pay at the US State Department (VanPayBJ at state dot gov).

Visit the FLANDERS MARINE INSTITUTE to download maritime boundary coordiantes as shape files or google KML files.

Advanced Notice Requirements

Plan vessel clearance requests with foreign coastal countries

Community Primer

A Primer for Marine Scientists Planning Shipboard Work in Alaskan Arctic and Sub-Arctic Waters

Native Communities

Guidelines and other information on cooperation between researchers and native communities

Northern Sea Route

Read about the Northern Sea Route

Russian Federation

Guidelines for cooperation with the Russian Federation