Canada’s Annual Ice-Breaking Season In The Arctic Set To Begin

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The CCGS Captain Molly Kool docked in port. Pic: Coast Guard

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories: The Canadian Coast Guard’s annual Arctic icebreaking season allows the safe and efficient movement of vessels and goods in northern waters, which is key to community resupply.

The Government of Canada is committed to maritime safety, providing essential services to mariners, and ensuring the health and safety of all Canadians, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

The Coast Guard’s presence in Canada’s North also provides key services, such as search and rescue, support to science research, marine communications and traffic services, aids to navigation, and marine environmental protection.

The annual icebreaking season in Arctic waters begins on June 22, 2020, and runs into November. Eight Coast Guard icebreakers are scheduled to deploy this season to support northern communities and operational and program commitments.

• June 22  CCGS Pierre Radisson departs Quebec City, QC for icebreaking, Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) programming, and resupplying Eureka

• June 22  CCGS Terry Fox departs St. John’s, NL for icebreaking

• July 1 CCGS Captain Molly Kool departs St. John’s, NL for icebreaking and Operation   Pacer Goose, the annual resupply mission for the Thule US Air Force base in Greenland

• July 1 CCGS Henry Larsen, departs St. John’s, NL for icebreaking, opening and closing  Killiniq station, and ATON

• July 10  CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier departs Victoria, BC for icebreaking, Aids to  Navigation (ATON), and CHS programming

• July 16    CCGS Amundsen, departs Quebec City, QC for icebreaking and science programming

• July 24    CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, departs St. John’s, NL for icebreaking and CHS programming

• August 19   CCGS Des Groseilliers, departs Quebec City, QC for icebreaking and  CHS programming.

The Coast Guard’s skilled crews and commanding officers are ready to assist the shipping industry during the annual Arctic resupply missions, known as sealift. In addition to ice escorts, providing daily updates on ice conditions, and icebreaker operations to industry and partners throughout the shipping season contributes to a successful marine shipping season in the Arctic.

Coast Guard is actively monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and working closely with Indigenous organizations and governments, territorial governments, communities, industry, and other partners to make decisions based on the best guidance available from federal, provincial and territorial, and municipal health authorities.

Coast Guard’s levels of service are maintained at normal operations and National Standard Operating Procedures are in place to prevent the spread of the virus. This includes advanced screening and implementing onboard extra sanitation practices for all Coast Guard crew boarding vessels to the Arctic.

Due to the pandemic, all non-essential public engagement activities in the Arctic have been cancelled this year. This includes shore leave for Coast Guard crews, community visits, open houses, exercises and tours of Coast Guard ships. To further protect the North, crews and vessels will limit their contact with communities un less essential, such as a medical emergency.

Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, said: “The Canadian Coast Guard is a key component of Arctic community resupply and ensuring the safety of mariners and our oceans. This year is very different for us. Each Arctic operational season is an opportunity to learn from and work with Indigenous communities and organizations on multiple initiatives. While we are keeping a physical distance from communities this year to prevent the potential spread of the virus, our service levels remain the same, providing essential icebreaking support, search and rescue services, and programs in the Arctic.”

Neil O’Rourke, Assistant Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Arctic Region, added: “Coast Guard is working closely with Transport Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada during COVID-19 to engage Inuit, First Nations, and Métis governments and organizations, territorial governments, industry and northern partners on the best way to safely deliver essentials goods in the Arctic.

“Our first priority is the health and safety of our crews and the people and communities we serve in the North, both at-sea and ashore.

“We are adapting our plans and priorities to align with those of northern partners to ensure delivery of critical programs like search and rescue, environmental response, and icebreaking in support of community resupply. We’re committed to ensuring a successful operational season in the Arctic this summer and continued engagement with northerners on year-round priorities.”

• The Inshore Rescue Boat station in Rankin Inlet, NU reopens on June 17, 2020, and is operated by Indigenous students providing local maritime search and rescue response. The station will be operational until October 24, 2020.

• Annual reopening of the Marine Communication and Traffic Services Centre (MCTS) in Iqaluit was on May 20, 2020. It will remain open until December 21, 2020, at which time Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone (NORDREG) services will be provided by Prescott MCTS until the 2021 Arctic season opens.

  • Navigational publications officially released by the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) provide essential maritime information necessary to support economic activity in the Arctic region. This year, CHS hydrographers will sail aboard four Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers in the North to conduct opportunity seabed mapping programs. They will use state-of-the art multi-beam sonar systems to significantly increase the amount of sea floor surveyed in the Arctic.
  • Under the Oceans Protection Plan, Coast Guard is actively working with Indigenous and northern residents to support the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA) across the Arctic, and identify communities interested in participating in the Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer Pilot Program, which provides search and rescue capable boats and other equipment to meet the standards of the CCGA and Transport Canada.

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