Large-scale exploitation projects will no longer be feasible in Arctic waters if nations continue to argue over maritime boundaries, according to an industry analyst.

Speaking at the Oil and Gas Outlook Arctic conference in London, UK, Ove Gudmestad, professor of Marine and Arctic Technology at the University of Stravanger in Norway, stressed that geopolitical disputes “still pose a barrier” to future projects.

“If people are willing to cooperate then large-scale projects will go ahead, but there is a trust issue between politicians and oil and gas companies,” Gudmestad said.

The Arctic Sea region has long been a subject of dispute. Canada, Denmark, Russia and Norway all regard the area as national waters, whereas the US and EU regard it as international.

A dispute over how the US and Canada should define their maritime boundaries has caused a major obstacle for offshore projects since the 1970s.

Gudmestad added that oil spill lawsuits are still being dragged through the courts until “those who suffer have passed away”.

“If this carries on there will be no offshore projects,” he said. “The Exxon Valdez oil spill case is still in court and should have been settled decades ago.”