A warming Arctic – Canada’s need for Marine Response

A warming Arctic – Canada’s need for Marine Response

K. Joseph Spears

The summer of 2017 has seen the Arctic continuing to warm with sea-ice diminishing by both extent and volume. The last decade has seen a constant Arctic warming trend that has resulted in increased global interest in the region and increased marine activities which bring with it increased marine risks. The Arctic is a region that has very little marine infrastructure and organic marine response capability. This past year, the Finnish ice breaker Nordica departed from Vancouver on July 4 to make the earliest eastbound transit through the Northwest Passage arriving in Nuuk, Greenland on July 29. The year 2016 saw the non-ice-strengthened cruise ship Crystal Serenity making history, completing a successful and well-publicized NW Passage transit. The vessel will be doing the same again this year to a sold-out capacity of 1,000 passengers with the assistance of escort vessel RRS Earnest Shackleton. The future is here: Increasing international marine traffic in our Arctic waters presents challenges to Canada’s ability to manage its ocean space, and challenges existing Canadian marine response capability, which includes search and rescue (SAR).

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Finland: breaking ice and leading international scientific cooperation in the Arctic

K. Joseph Spears

In true “can do” Finnish fashion, Finland combined celebrating the hundredth anniversary of its independence and its chairmanship of the Arctic Council by organizing an international arctic research expedition (Arctic 100) to increase international cooperation and strengthen understanding of the Arctic region. The Arctic 100 expedition was conducted from the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica. Nordica sailed through the Northwest Passage this past summer departing Vancouver on July 5, steaming 10,000 nautical miles and arriving in Nuuk, Greenland on July 29, 2017, 24 days later. It broke the record for the fastest Northwest Passage crossing by one day.

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The case of Clipper Adventurer: Between a rock and a hard place

The case of Clipper Adventurer: Between a rock and a hard place

By Kiley Sampson and K. Joseph Spears

On January 27 2017, Mr. Justice Shawn Harrington of the Federal Court handed down an interesting decision that examined potential liability of the government of Canada involving the grounding of adventure cruise vessel M/V Clipper Adventurer which ran aground on an “uncharted rock” in Coronation Gulf in the Canadian Arctic on August 27, 2010. Before his appointment to the bench, the judge was an experienced admiralty law practitioner. This article will examine both the findings of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) and the Federal Court decision with respect to liability of the vessel owner. The grounding, and the subsequent TSB Marine Investigation and Federal Court decision are of interest to students of Arctic shipping. The grounding provides an insight into issues with respect to government of Canada’s obligations to provide Arctic shipping infrastructure and hydrographic charting, and the liability of vessel owners. It has been said that litigation is “an expensive way to learn.” This was a costly learning lesson.

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Trudeau’s Arctic: Warming up to the region

Trudeau’s Arctic: Warming up to the region

K. Joseph Spears

Canada’s Liberal government was elected October 2015 and is now in the second year of its mandate. A picture is emerging of the Trudeau government policy in the Arctic. Canada and the United States entered into a Joint Policy Statement on the Arctic when Prime Minister Trudeau attended his first state visit to Washington while President Obama was still in office. The joint declaration was based upon the foundation of climate change and science-based decision-making that provided a guidepost for resource development and sustainable shipping activities, to name two of the issues addressed in the joint statement. This joint declaration is the subject matter of an article in a March 2016 issue of Canadian Sailings. With the new Trump Administration, the status of this joint declaration remains undetermined, especially given the new Administration’s avoidance of statements related to climate change.

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Trump’s Arctic: Making America Great in the region

Trump’s Arctic: Making America Great in the region

By K. Joseph Spears

Has America’s Arctic policy changed with the election of President Donald J. Trump? His November 2016 election came as a surprise to political pundits and mainstream media. The previous Administration of Barack Obama made climate change a cornerstone of U.S. Arctic policy. Obama’s Arctic policy was the subject of articles in the March and November 2016 issues of Canadian Sailings. It is an understatement that the new President has been less vigorous in his approach to climate science and the underlying causes of climate change. Whether this impacts U.S. Arctic policy remains to be seen: it is still very early days. President Trump has made it clear that he wants to make America great again and thicken the borders of continental America and this must also include the northern border along the coast of Alaska. These efforts will impact Canada.

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Summer 2016: an assessment of Canada’s Arctic critical marine infrastructure

K. Joseph Spears

This past summer has seen the continued warming of the Arctic with a two-fold increase in average Arctic temperatures as compared to southern regions, contributing to a more intense climate impact, and decreasing sea ice concentrations. This has made ice conditions more unpredictable. The lack of sea ice cover in Canadian arctic waters saw the heavy lift ship Happy Rover transit the Northwest Passage this summer bound for the Great Lakes. It used the shorter route via Fury and Hecla Strait. Earlier in the year it had transited the Northern Sea Route over the top of Russia. Does Canada have the necessary marine infrastructure to handle increased marine activities?

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