The M/T Nanny, which ran aground in the eastern approach to the Simpson Strait near Gjoa Haven, Nunavut Sept. 1, was successfully refloated early on the morning of Sept. 15. The vessel is seen here with the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Henry Larsen, which has been monitoring the situation along with the Coast Guard's Environmental Response personnel. The refloating effort, which began on Sept. 13, involved the transfer of fuel off the M/T Nanny and onto another Woodward’s ship, the M/T Tuvaq. Lightering a ship reduces the ship’s weight, allowing it to refloat.
A tanker carrying 9m litres (2m gallons) of diesel fuel has run aground off the coast of northern Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard has said.
The Nanny, owned by Woodward's Oil, hit a sandbar in the Northwest Passage, near the village of Gjoa Haven in the Nunavut federal territory.
No diesel is believed to have been spilt, Coast Guard officials said.
The authorities are working with Woodward's Oil to attempt to float the tanker off the sandbar.
"At this point in time there is no pollution and no damage to the vessel," said Larry Trigatti, an environmental response official with the Canadian Coast Guard.
He said the ship, which ran aground on Wednesday, was not taking on water and that its crew was safe.
Officials said it was too early to tell when the tanker, which was supplying remote communities in the region, would be able to move again.
Its owners were said to be working on a plan to salvage the vessel.
The Nanny is a modern double-hulled product tanker, according to the coastguard.
A cruise ship exploring the Northwest Passage also ran aground last week when it hit an uncharted rock off Nunavut.
Gjoa Haven, or Uqsuqtuuq in the Inuktitut language, is the only settlement on King William Island.
The Northwest Passage is one of the most fabled sea routes in the world - the most direct shipping route from Europe to Asia through the Canadian Arctic. Historically, it is ice-bound throughout the year.
- - - update - - -
- - - update - - -
Arctic ships sail into policy vacuum
September 26, 2010
The waterways of the Canadian Arctic are getting busier. The prospect of an ice-free summer and the potential for a shorter trading route due to reduced sea ice cover may result in a longer shipping season between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the fabled Northwest Passage.
Not only are shipping companies and cruise operators paying attention to these changes, but mining, oil and gas companies are, too. Some predictions suggest receding ice levels will make available a rich supply of natural resources from beneath previously ice-covered expanses as well as new transportation routes to previously hard-to-reach land-based resources. The result is that Arctic waterways are seeing more boat traffic in total and for longer periods during the year.
The attention on Arctic waterways has also increased the tourism potential of the northern polar regions. The number of planned cruise itineraries through the Northwest Passage increased by 70 per cent between 2005 and 2010 and this upward trend is likely to continue.
There have also been an increasing number of small and large pleasure craft that have been showing up unannounced in local communities. Although these surprise ships provide excitement and conversation material for weeks within small Arctic hamlets, some have voiced security concerns. Ships of this size are not legally required to announce their presence or provide their route plans to NORDREG, Canada’s Arctic shipping monitoring program, and are effectively off the radar of Canada’s policing and security bodies.
The growth in marine transportation in Arctic Canada presents many regulatory challenges in addition to security concerns. For Canadian authorities, who admit to being under-resourced for their increasing tasks, it can often come down to a matter of picking the most urgent among a wide variety of responsibilities they are being entrusted with. Their duties include: route monitoring, pollution control, security, charting, policing, general communications, and search and rescue.
According to some regulatory personnel, the biggest cause for concern currently is the general perception that Arctic waterways are safe for passage. Despite the fact that increasing sections are ice-free, significant navigation hazards remain, including loose sections of hull-penetrating multi-year ice that float south from the Arctic Ocean and regularly choke popular routes through the Northwest Passage.
These ice floes force ships to take alternative routes through areas with known navigation hazards, including shallow sand bars, rocks and other obstacles. The region is also notorious for its outdated and poor navigation charts — federal commitments are in place to improve charting in the region but funds have yet to be fully allocated to the initiative.
The potential danger of ship traffic in the Canadian Arctic was highlighted recently with the grounding of two separate ice-strengthened ships within one week.
On Aug. 27, the Clipper Adventurer, a cruise ship carrying 110 passengers, came to a halt on a known hazard, but one that did not appear on the captain’s charts, in the Coronation Gulf about 100 kilometres east of the community of Kugluktuk.
A few days later on Sept. 3, a fuel tanker carrying 9 million litres of diesel fuel became stuck on a sandbar just southwest of the community of Gjoa Haven.
The coast guard and research ship Amundsen rescued the cruise passengers after it made a two-day voyage to the site of the grounding. The Amundsen itself ran into trouble in Arctic waters last October when it became stuck in the ice for two days — despite its ice-breaker status — before it was able to continue its voyage.
Luckily, these incidents ended positively but the outcomes could have been disastrous had the Clipper Adventurer sunk, as the MS Explorer did in the Antarctic in 2007 after hitting an iceberg, or had the fuel ship leaked, as we have seen with oil tanker spills in the past.
There is strong federal interest in ship presence in the Canadian Arctic, not only for the purpose of economic development but also related to issues of Canadian sovereignty. There is no doubt that marine activity in the region will continue to increase. With this comes the increased risk of a major marine disaster. Without proactive policy initiatives, it almost certainly is only a matter of time before we see a major shipping disaster in the Canadian Arctic, be it loss of human life or significant environmental damage.
The federal and territorial governments are aware of the looming and increasingly urgent possibility of a major Arctic shipping disaster. Efforts have already been made to change existing policies and improve monitoring (i.e. changes to the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act this past July).
However, more needs to be done and it needs to be done soon. In particular, funding needs to be available to improve and update existing navigation charts and to support search-and-rescue capabilities of the Canadian Coast Guard. Coordinated inter-territorial management and development plans need to be established for the burgeoning cruise and pleasure craft industry, which is currently developing ad hoc and without dedicated authority.
Now is the time for proactive investment and regulation policy. The millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent cleaning up an avoidable Arctic shipping disaster should be dedicated now into policy and support for shipping regulation and sustainable development marine transportation plans.
The consequences of inaction or even slow action are far greater than the cost required for effective and proactive marine transportation policy that just might help to avoid mass human or environmental casualities in the Canadian Arctic.