Feature

Canada: Not ready for shipping in the Arctic

The Northwest Passage is opening up, and Canada is completely unprepared.

Michael Byers
The Globe and Mail

The Northwest Passage is opening up, and Canada is completely unprepared, said Michael Byers. The country considers the treacherous route to be internal waters, and says that ships using it must comply with our safety and environmental laws. But right now, there’s little incentive for them to do so. We haven’t charted the waters well enough to offer reliable maps, and “Canada’s Arctic search-and-rescue capabilities are desperately poor.” Last week, when a coast guard helicopter crashed in the area, the three men on board froze to death before help could reach them, even though they were kitted out in survival suits. Our rescue helicopters are based far to the south, and we lack a single port “in which a vessel could seek refuge in the event of mechanical problems or a serious storm.” Russia, by contrast, has 16 deepwater ports on its Arctic coastline, and is building more Arctic rescue stations. To protect our sovereignty, we must up our game. International shipping firms will only accept our claim to the waters and register their voyages “if doing so will ensure their access to ice breaking, world-class search and rescue, weather and ice forecasting, and ports of refuge.” If we want to be seen as owning these waters, we must act like responsible owners.

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