The measures to improve security and safety include a best-practice guide for cruise ships travelling in Canada’s Arctic waters as well a probable tightening of regulations for smaller vessels travelling in the Northwest Passage.
Arctic cruises are the latest thing in high-end tourism. Icebergs, polar bears, beluga whales, awe-inspiring vistas and isolated Inuit communities – what’s not to like for the jaded traveller?
Michael Byers, Globe and Mail, 18 April 2016
This summer, thousands of people will sail the Arctic’s increasingly ice-free waters. At the very top end, the world’s most luxurious cruise ship, the Crystal Serenity, will traverse the Northwest Passage from Anchorage to New York City. The 1,070 passengers will pay up to $120,000 (U.S.) for the privilege.
But here’s the thing: Arctic cruises involve greater hazards and environmental impact than just about any other kind of tourism.
ABOARD THE COAST GUARD CUTTER HEALY, IN THE ARCTIC–
When you plow into a 4-foot-thick chunk of sea ice at 3 knots, even in a 16,000-ton state-of-the-art icebreaker like the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy, it’s hard not to notice. The whole ship shudders and seems to lurch sideways. Metal cabinets rattle. Californians swear it sounds and feels just like an earthquake, with deep rumbling booms and tremors. Others say it’s like hitting turbulence on a jetliner, the shivering and rattling accompanied by the overdrive whine of 30,000 horsepower. If you’re down in the galley, right on the waterline, what you hear is the nerve-wracking scraping of shattered ice along the side. Five stories up, on top of the bridge, you feel the bump of the collision over the strain of the engines pushing the ship through a sea of drifting white, blue, and dirty gray ice.
McKenzie Funk, New York Times Magazine, December 30, 2014
In 2005, Royal Dutch Shell, then the fourth-largest company on Earth, bought a drill rig that was both tall, rising almost 250 feet above the waterline, and unusually round. The hull of the Kulluk, as the rig was called, was made of 1.5-inch-thick steel and rounded to better prevent its being crushed. A 12-point anchor system could keep it locked in place above an oil well for a full day in 18-foot seas or in moving sea ice that was four feet thick. Its drill bit, dropped from a 160-foot derrick, could plunge 600 feet into the sea, then bore another 20,000 feet into the seabed, where it could verify the existence of oil deposits that were otherwise a geologist’s best guess. It had a sauna. It could go (in theory) where few other rigs could go, helping Shell find oil that (in theory) few other oil companies could find. ...
The company that made the first commercial transit of the Northwest Passage plans to increase its shipments through the legendary waterway next year, suggesting such traffic is coming sooner than anyone anticipated.
"We hope and expect to do it," said Christian Bonfils of Nordic Bulk Carriers, the Danish shipper which owns the Nordic Orion.
Pricey, plodding Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships ill-fitted to their planned missions.
A/OPS: Destined to be subject of derisive maritime pub songs?
Michael Byers & Stewart Webb, 24 April 2013, TheTyee.ca
Peter MacKay is no stranger to maritime pubs. He could probably recite the words of Stan Rogers' Barrett's Privateers while drunk and standing on his head. But does Canada's defence minister realize that he's fast becoming the 21st-century version of Elcid Barrett, who led a group of blindly ambitious men on a dangerous folly?