As the Northwest Passage attracts more cruise ships, Taloyoak Mayor Simon Qingnaqtuq plans to make a point about the need for improved security and communications.
Close to 150 unannounced guests wandered through his community on Aug. 29 when the cruise ship Bremen made an unscheduled stop.
Qingnaqtuq said the ship’s apologetic captain came to his office and explained that they were ahead of schedule on their voyage and that gave them time to stop in Taloyoak. He said the captain told him that he attempted to reach the hamlet office but he didn’t know how.
“I told him it’s not appreciated. It has to be more organized how the cruise ships come up here,” the mayor said. “I’ll have a say on that issue at the regional level for the mayors’ meeting… you never know who’s on board that ship.”
A spokesperson with Department of Economic Development and Transportation said the ship made the stop due to unfavourable ice conditions. The Bremen’s crew gave 24-hours notice to Transport Canada of the intent to visit Taloyoak and also notified the Canadian Coast Guard, said Bernie MacIsaac, assistant deputy minister of ED&T.
Qingnaqtuq suggested that the RCMP should be contacted in such situations. He would like the police to check passengers’ passports as a security measure.
MacIsaac noted that the passengers’ passports were already checked in Cambridge Bay.
Qingnaqtuq also would like to see docking fees in place for cruise ships.
“This way our communities get a piece of the money from the tourists,” he said.
There were four wildlife monitors among the crowd of visitors, meaning they were carrying rifles, which led to further concern for some local people.
“By all means that shouldn’t be able to happen in Nunavut because, for tourism, especially with cruise ships, they should hire local people to monitor polar bears for them,” Qinqnaqtuq said.
The ship, owned by German-based company Hapag-Lloyd, docked outside the community around 7 a.m. and pulled away at close to 1 p.m., after the passengers went on a walking tour of Taloyoak with the mayor’s permission.
Had there been adequate notice, a group of local dancers, artists and other representatives could have been ready to greet them, Qingnaqtuq said.
“The good part was the cruise ship donated some pants and whatnot for the students in our community. They donated some items for our local school,” said Qingnaqtuq.
MacIsaac said tour operators are informed that it’s their responsibility to advise any communities of their presence prior to an unscheduled visit. In this instance, the phone number the Bremen had on file was unresponsive, he noted. Based on the captain’s visit to the hamlet office to explain and apologize, “in this particular situation, the ship followed best practices to the extent of its ability to do so,” according to MacIsaac.
He added that marine tourism is still new in Nunavut. Regulations to address the industry, and incidents like the one in Taloyoak, are being developed. While the federal government oversees vessel traffic and sailing routes, the GN takes jurisdiction when passengers step on land.
“The new regulations may require that a cruise ship notifies a community within a minimum time frame before arrival,” MacIssac said.