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?

(more…)

Breaking Trail-Notice: The historic voyage of Crystal Serenity

By K. Joseph Spears

This past summer many milestone events occurred in the Canadian Arctic, including the milestone event garnering the most controversy and international media attention, namely the historic voyage of the non ice-strengthened cruiseship Crystal Serenity with 1,000 passengers and 700 crew on a 32-day voyage through the Northwest Passage.

(more…)

A Warming International Arctic – Has Anything Changed?

By K. Joseph Spears

Global concentrations of carbon dioxide have now have reached a consistent level of 400 parts per million (ppm) which is seen as the point at which even if carbon emissions were stopped today, it would take decades for the global concentration of CO2 to fall below 400 ppm. The implication is that the Arctic Ocean Basin will continue to see rising temperatures and diminishing sea-ice, leading to more marine and economic activity in the region as sea-ice concentrations decrease. A clear example of this is the historic voyage of Crystal Serenity, a 1,000-passenger non ice-strengthened cruise ship this past summer.

(more…)

Stuart Milton Hodgson, O.C.: a Canadian Arctic elder passes away

By K. Joseph Spears

As we consider the need for collaboration in Arctic governance we should not forget Canada’s long-standing past of engaging with the Inuit in the management and governance of the region. A solid foundation was laid by some amazing Canadians. One such individual is Stuart Hodgson O.C. who passed away on December 18, 2015 in Vancouver at the age of 91.

(more…)

Breaking bread and the ice in Washington

K. Joseph Spears

Since being elected on October 19, 2015, there has been a great interest in the future direction of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal government and what tack would be taken with Canada’s future Arctic policy. There was criticism that there was no direction forthcoming in the first 100 days of the new government other than brief statements of instruction contained in the Ministerial mandate letters issues by the Prime Minister to his new ministers on the Arctic.

(more…)

Arctic marine response- Arctic mariners matter

By K. Joseph Spears

While forecast levels of Arctic shipping have not meshed with actual traffic, recent marine incidents such as the close call with Nunavut owned and operated shrimp trawler Saputi off Greenland last month, and the forthcoming 2016 North West Passage voyage of the cruise ship Crystal Serenity highlight the need for a robust marine response capability to respond to possible arctic incidents. These events raise questions and heighten need for international cooperation on marine response in Arctic waters. The Arctic Council has been successful in reaching international agreements on both Arctic search and rescue and pollution response. However, these treaties represent agreements to cooperate – but do not require the Arctic nations to take tangible steps with regard to capability and capacity. These agreements are in addition to existing international agreements that apply globally to shipping and in the case of search and rescue, aviation. The devil is in the details. Arctic states, including Canada, must commit to spend money to create the necessary marine response capability and infrastructure.

(more…)