Duke Snider – Canadian Arctic elder recognized by Finland

By Joe Spears and Monica Ahlroos

The Finns know a thing or two about icebreakers, having constructed Arctic-capable icebreakers for well over 150 years even for the Russians, and it is not every day that they award medals for ice navigation to Canadians. In April 2018 at the Canadian Embassy in Finland, David (“Duke”) Snider, FNI, MM, President of Martech Polar Consulting Ltd. based in Victoria, British Columbia received the Canada-Finland medal metal recognizing his outstanding contributions for fostering good relations via arctic operations and navigation. Martech Polar was recognized by International Transport News Maritime & Shipping Awards 2018 as “Best Global Ice Pilotage and Navigation Specialists” and by CV Magazine’s Canadian Business Awards 2019 as “Best Polar Ice Navigation and Pilotage Specialists” (more…)

Does Canada have a strategic plan to enhance its fleet of icebreakers?

Does Canada have a strategic plan to enhance its fleet of icebreakers?

By K. Joseph Spears

Since Canada is an Arctic nation, there is a strong requirement for icebreaker capability in our Arctic waters. The Canadian Coast Guard, operating within Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is tasked with providing the necessary icebreakers in support of its own mandate and other government operations (search and rescue, hydrographic work and resupply, to name just a few). These are hard-working ships, with experienced crews who often work in hostile environments. Interestingly, former CBC  National news anchor Peter Mansbridge, a former Churchill, Manitoba resident, described his time aboard Canadian Coast Guard heavy icebreaker’s CCGS Louis St. Laurent in the Northwest Passage as among his most cherished moments in broadcasting. Yet, Canada’s icebreakers are old, with the average age of Canadian icebreakers being just shy of 40 years, which adversely impacts their operational readiness and reliability. (more…)

Canada and China: two nations claiming sovereignty over disputed ocean space

Canada and China: two nations claiming sovereignty over disputed ocean space

By K. Joseph Spears

What is old is new again. United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the recent ministers meeting at the Arctic Council in Helsinki, Finland, talked about Canada’s claim to the Northwest Passage, and stated: “We recognize that Russia is not the only nation making illegitimate claims. The U.S. has a long-contested feud with Canada over sovereign claims through the Northwest Passage.” (more…)

Canada’s Arctic Policy—the search continues

Canada’s Arctic Policy—the search continues

By Joe Spears

In an April 2016 article, Breaking Bread and the Ice in Washington, I examined Canada’s evolving Arctic policy under the then new and shiny Trudeau government. The Joint Arctic Statement communique was unveiled with great fanfare at the Obama White House in Washington, DC. Four years into the Trudeau mandate, the world has seen many changes, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, and we are still awaiting a Canadian Arctic policy. It is clearly not a priority. (more…)

The Arctic Ocean Basin – is it really Putin’s playground?

The Arctic Ocean Basin – is it really Putin’s playground?

By K. Joseph Spears

During the long running Cold War, the Arctic Ocean Basin had strategic military significance: The airspace was potentially important for overflights of strategic bombers and later, intercontinental ballistic missiles – the ocean space for subsurface operations of submarines of the United States and her allies, and the Soviet Union.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the strategic significance of the Arctic Ocean Basin diminished. The Arctic was an afterthought in the thinking of most defense planners for decades. However, with melting sea-ice and a fast warming Arctic, there is now greater interest in the region because of its greater accessibility, and the importance of the region to both Russia and near-Arctic states such as China. (more…)

Closing Canada’s icebreaker gap

Closing Canada’s icebreaker gap

By K. Joseph Spears

Canada is both an Ocean and Arctic Nation. Canada has operated government-owned icebreakers for well over a hundred years. For example, the museum ship CHS Acadia moored in Halifax was built to chart Hudson Bay as part of the development of the port of Churchill in the early 1900s. A number of sources have raised concerns about Canada’s impeding “icebreaker gap”, which was first addressed three years ago in a Canadian Sailings article entitled Canada’s Icebreaker Gap. Little, if anything, has been done to alleviate this problem during the past years, which has now assumed critical proportions.

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