Canadian Coast Guard Completes 2021 Arctic Operational Season

December 21, 2021

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories – The Canadian Coast Guard completed its 2021 Arctic operational season on November 20, 2021. A total of eight icebreakers deployed to the Arctic this year, including a maiden voyage by the CCGS Jean Goodwill, the second of three medium interim icebreakers acquired by the Canadian Coast Guard in 2018.

The Canadian 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, icebreaking, support for scientific research, marine communications and traffic services, aids to navigation, and marine environmental response.

During the 2021 Arctic operational season, the Marine Communication and Traffic Services Centre (MCTS) in Iqaluit provided support for 159 vessels, with a total of 1,263 voyages under the Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone (NORDREG). These vessels included Canadian Coast Guard ships, cargo ships, tankers, and bulk carriers. The centre will remain open until December 20, 2021, at which time NORDREG services will be provided by the MCTS centre in Les Escoumins, Quebec until the 2022 Arctic season opens.To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in remote and vulnerable communities, pleasure craft and cruise ships are prohibited from operating within Canada’s Arctic coastal waters as well as in the coastal areas of northern Quebec and Labrador, under Transport Canada’s measures, between February 4, 2021 and February 28, 2022. As a result, this season six vessels, including general cargo and Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers, made full transits of the Northwest Passage, compared to eight vessels the year before.  

The Canadian Coast Guard was involved in 22 search and rescue cases in 2021, while the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary responded to 34 cases. As part of the Canadian Coast Guard’s Arctic Region’s search and rescue programs, Rankin Inlet’s Inshore Rescue Boat station crew carried out four training exercises, responded to three search and rescue cases, and travelled over 854 nautical miles this season. The station closed on September 7, 2021 and will reopen in June 2022.

Under the Oceans Protection Plan, the Canadian Coast Guard is actively working with Indigenous and northern residents to support the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary across the Arctic. Through the Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer Pilot Program, 16 new dedicated search and rescue vessels are currently operating in the Arctic region, enabling local communities to respond to search and rescue incidents off their coastlines. Five additional community boats are currently being built for Aklavik, NWT, Igloolik, NU, Kangiqsujuaq, QC, Naujaat, NU, and Sanirajak, NU, with expected deliveries in 2022.

Since January 2021, the Canadian Coast Guard’s Arctic Region led and/or participated in a total of nineteen exercises, including Operation Nanook Tatigiit 2021 and a joint search and rescue training exercise with the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy near Resolute, NU. Exercises were primarily focused on interoperability between government and industry partners, with one exercise being conducted at the Geographic North Pole.

This year, Environmental Response delivered training and exercising in Churchill, MB, Hay River, NWT, Iqaluit, NU, and Tuktoyaktuk, NWT. The Environmental Response program received and investigated 38 marine incident reports, with 25 requiring enhanced monitoring or intervention due to pollution or risk of pollution.

The Canadian Hydrographic Service had a successful Arctic data acquisition season. This was made possible through the Oceans Protection Plan and the support of three Canadian Coast Guard vessels with dedicated seabed mapping programs, as well as a contracted survey vessel which included an uncrewed surface vessel. Hydrographic data acquired will allow the Canadian Hydrographic Service to produce and update nautical charts and publications for Arctic waters, contributing directly to safer navigation in the region. A total of 33,650 km2 was surveyed in the Arctic in 2021.

The Canadian Coast Guard’s seasonal icebreaking Arctic operations will resume again in May 2022, however, Coast Guard maintains a permanent, year-round presence in the Arctic.

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