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More data on Arctic waters

Jeanne Gagnon
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 7, 2012

Navigational charts and information about known hazards in Arctic waters are to be beefed up in the wake of a Transportation Safety Board report on the circumstances of a ship's grounding in Nunavut almost two years ago.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its report on the August 2010 grounding of the Clipper Adventurer. The cruise ship ran aground on a shoal in the Coronation Gulf on Aug. 27, 2010 while travelling to Kugluktuk from Port Epworth, carrying 128 passengers and 69 crew. Efforts by the crew to dislodge the vessel during high tide the next day proved unsuccessful. The ship was freed on Sept. 14 and eventually towed to Cambridge Bay.

The 27-page document released April 26 shows the ship ran aground on a shoal previously discovered by the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 2007 while conducting scientific research. The Clipper Adventurer was not advised of a possible shoal in that location, however, as it was not marked on navigational charts, according to the board.

As a result of the investigation, starting this June, the coast guard will provide all vessels entering Arctic waters with a list of notices to shipping via the Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services (NORDREG) the TSB stated.

The Canadian Hydrographic Service, a branch of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, will start marking navigation charts for the Arctic with reported hazards to navigation in 2013, the board stated.

"Our investigation determined there was a problem with the vessel's voyage planning but we also found that key safety information was not being proactively provided to vessels transiting the Arctic," said Eric Asselin, the board's investigator-in-charge. "Given the remoteness and unique navigation challenges, when vessels enter Arctic waters, it is essential they know about hazards to navigation."

Contributing factors to the incident include the choice of a navigational route through an inadequately surveyed area and travelling at full sea speed despite having a non-functional, forward-looking sonar and without assessing water depths ahead through other means, states the report.

The ship could have reached Kugluktuk on schedule, navigating with about half that speed, shows the report.

It further states NORDREG did not specifically advise the Clipper Adventurer of the notice to shipping applicable to the ship's area of navigation.

The shoal had been reported in a notice to shipping, still in effect at the time of grounding, the report states. However, the investigation could not determine why the Clipper Adventurer was unaware of the notice to shipping, the report states.

The unissued chart correction by the Canadian Hydrographic Service deprived the ship of a critical source of information, the report also states.

Adventure Canada, the company charting the Clipper Adventurer at the time of the incident, is really pleased with the outcome of the report, a positive step for Arctic shipping, said vice-president Cedar Swan.

"We think there is a lot of areas for improvement, both in the planning process and, then, of course, on the Canadian Hydrographic Service side," said Swan, adding the company has already implemented many of the report's recommendations and changes for the last year's shipping season. "Issues such as standardized speed, having the forward-looking sonar - all of those items are ones that have been addressed. An actual policy is now in place for all of those recommendations by the report."

One of those new policies is for ships to travel at reduced speeds in uncharted waters, said Swan.

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