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Greater Arctic commercial exploitation exposes lack of infrastructure

GREATER commercial activity Arctic has exposed the shortcomings of the Canadian government's ability to respond to marine accidents that are waiting to happen, says a Canadian researcher from Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario

Greater Arctic commercial exploitation exposes lack of infrastructure
11 September 2018 - 19:00
GREATER commercial activity Arctic has exposed the shortcomings of the Canadian government's ability to respond to marine accidents that are waiting to happen, says a Canadian researcher from Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario.

A fellow at Queen's Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy, School of Policy Studies, Edward Struzik made this discovery when aboard the 364-foot, 1,738 dwt Akademik Ioffe that aground on a shoal east of Baffin Island.



'Fortunately, none of the 102 passengers and 24 crew were injured. Chemical contaminants pumped out with the bilge seemed to be minor,' he said, adding that he there doing research for a group called Yale Environment 360.



'It could have ended up a lot worse. It took nearly nine hours for a Hercules aircraft to fly in from Trenton, Ontario., 12 hours for another plane to come in from Winnipeg and 20 hours for a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter to fly over,' Mr Struzik said.



By then some were boarding the Russian 2,275-dwt Akademik Vavilov, while other passengers, still waiting to be rescued, watched a Canadian military aircraft fly overhead.



'Had the weather not worked in our favour and had there been thick ice, we would have faced potentially dangerous scenarios,' he said.



'Powerful winds could have spun us around on that rock, possibly ripping a hole into the hull that might have been bigger than the one that was presumably taking in the water we saw being pumped out of the ship,' Mr Struzik said.



'Thick ice grinding up against the ship would have made it almost impossible to get everyone off into lifeboats.



Less than per cent of the Arctic Ocean in the United States, is charted. Only 25 per cent of the Canadian paper charts are deemed to be good, he said. Some of the US charts go back to the days of Captains Cook and Vancouver and the time when Russia owned Alaska.



'As sea ice recedes, it provides cruise, cargo and tanker companies with new opportunities, and emboldens small vessels to venture into uncharted areas.



'Mines such as the one at Mary River on Baffin Island are planning to use ships to transport their ore. Bigger cruise ships such as the Crystal Serenity that sailed through the Northwest Passage with 1,000 passengers and 600 crew in 2017 are beginning to test these opportunities,' he said.



Icebreakers are few and far between, he said. The US Coast Guard has just one in operation. Canada has a few more, but many of them are being decommissioned, he said.



Weather forecasting capabilities are poor due to the shortage of meteorological stations and the increasingly unpredictable nature of Arctic weather.

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