September 16, 2021
Yellowknife, NWT – The Canadian Coast Guard is past the mid-way point of its 2021 Arctic operational season, which runs annually from June to November and ensures safe and efficient movement of vessels in Canada’s northern waters.
Coast Guard’s presence in Canada’s Arctic enables the summer re-supply of communities in Canada’s North, and provides key services, including search and rescue, support for scientific research, marine communications and traffic services, aids to navigation, and marine environmental response.
Seven vessels were deployed to the Arctic to support northern communities and operational and program commitments this season. A maiden voyage to the Arctic by the CCGS Jean Goodwill, which departed Dartmouth, NS on June 30, 2021, is part of this deployment. Delivered to the Coast Guard in November 2020, the CCGS Jean Goodwill is the second of three medium interim icebreakers acquired by the Coast Guard in 2018 to join the fleet, following conversion work.
Coast Guard icebreakers are supporting operational and program commitments, including providing safe escorts to ships through ice-covered waters, conducting hydrographic surveys, maintaining navigational aids, and supporting Arctic science programs in addition to Search and Rescue activities.
The Marine Communication and Traffic Services Centre (MCTS) in Iqaluit opened on May 25, 2021. As of August 30, MCTS Iqaluit has provided support for 57 vessels, with a total of 226 voyages under the Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone (NORDREG). These vessels include Canadian Coast Guard ships, cargo ships, tankers, and bulk carriers. It will remain open until December 20, 2021, at which time Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone (NORDREG) services will be provided by the MCTS centre in Les Escoumins, QC until the 2022 Arctic season opens.
The Canadian Coast Guard’s Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB) North station in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut opened on June 23, 2021 to provide search and rescue services during the summer season. So far, IRB North crews have assisted on 3 search and rescue cases and performed four training exercises.
In addition to search and rescue, all Coast Guard icebreakers working in the Arctic are equipped and ready to deal with emergency issues such as marine pollution incidents. Preparedness and readiness activities such as contingency planning, personnel training and exercising¸ as well as liaison with our response partners are on-going throughout the year. Close relationships with community partners are critical to successful environmental responses, as local knowledge of an area is invaluable.
As part of work supporting the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS), five Coast Guard vessels are dedicated to seabed mapping programs. Through state-of-the-art multi-beam systems, hydrographers are increasing the amount of seafloor surveyed in the Arctic. Bathymetric data acquired will help improve navigational charts and products, ultimately leading to safer navigation in Arctic waters. As of August, 30, 2021, CHS has surveyed 10,250 kilometers in the Arctic.
The Canadian Coast Guard also provides seasonal aids to navigation services across the Canadian Arctic, including on the Mackenzie River and Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories. These services are essential for commercial shipping traffic that navigates the river during the summer months. Both the CCGS Dumit and CCGS Eckaloo are operational from June to October in the Northwest Territories (NWT).
The Canadian Coast Guard continues to actively monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes working closely with Inuit, First Nations, and Métis organizations and governments, territorial and provincial governments, Arctic communities, industry, and other partners in decision-making, based on guidance from public health authorities. Coast Guard’s levels of service have been maintained at a normal operational level since the onset of the pandemic. National Standard Operating Procedures are in place, including testing of all crews boarding icebreaking vessels to the Arctic, and increased sanitation measures onboard all vessels.
The health and safety of crews and mariners remains Coast Guard’s top priority.
Due to the pandemic, shore leave for Coast Guard crews, community visits, open houses, and tours of Coast Guard ships have been cancelled this year in order to limit contact with communities unless essential, such as a medical emergency.
Coast Guard’s Arctic season runs into November; however, operational plans are subject to change due to ice conditions and/or weather, changes by industry to their shipping schedules, or other unexpected situations. Weather changes can happen quickly, especially in the Arctic.