Canadian Coast Guard 2020 Arctic Operations past Mid-Season

News release

September 10, 2020                             

Yellowknife, NWT - The Canadian Coast Guard is past the mid-way point of its 2020 Arctic operational season, which ensures safe and efficient movement of vessels in Canada's northern waters and enables the summer re-supply of communities in Canada’s North.

All eight scheduled vessels have deployed to the Arctic, the last being CCGS Des Groseilliers, which departed Quebec City on August 19. All Coast Guard icebreakers are supporting operational and program commitments, including providing safe escorts to ships through ice-covered waters, conducting hydrographic surveys, maintaining navigational aids, and supporting Arctic science programs.

The Marine Communication and Traffic Services Centre (MCTS) in Iqaluit opened on May 20, 2020. As of August 31, MCTS Iqaluit has provided support for 87 vessels, with a total of 179 voyages under the Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone (NORDREG). These vessels include Canadian Coast Guard ships, cargo ships, tankers, and bulk carriers. As of June 1, 2020, pleasure craft and cruise ships are prohibited from operating within Canada’s Arctic coastal waters as well as in the coastal areas of northern Quebec and Labrador under Transport Canada’s measures to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in remote and vulnerable communities.

The Canadian Coast Guard’s Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB) North station in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut opened on June 17 to provide search and rescue services during the summer season. Before arriving in Rankin Inlet, crews isolated in Winnipeg for 14 days as part of measures taken to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. So far, IRB North crews have completed five search and rescue cases and performed three training exercises.

In addition to search and rescue capabilities, all ships working in the Arctic are equipped and ready to deal with emergency issues such as marine pollution incidents. Preparedness and readiness activities such as contingency planning, personnel training and exercising¸ as well as liaison with our response partners are on-going throughout the year. Close relationships with community partners are critical to successful environmental responses, as local knowledge of an area is invaluable.

As part of work supporting the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS), a number of Coast Guard vessels have dedicated seabed mapping programs. Through the use of state-of-the art multi-beam sonar systems, hydrographers are increasing the amount of sea floor surveyed in the Arctic, ultimately leading to a safer and more secure marine environment. This year, four Coast Guard vessels are directly supporting various CHS programs.

The Canadian Coast Guard also provides seasonal aids to navigation services on the Mackenzie River and Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories. These services are essential for barges that navigate the river during the summer months. The deployment, repositioning and repair of aids to navigation on the Mackenzie River and Great Slave Lake is carried out by two specialized buoy-tending vessels, the CCGS Dumit and CCGS Eckaloo.

The Canadian Coast Guard continues to actively monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes working closely with Inuit, First Nations, and Métis organizations and governments, territorial and provincial governments, Arctic communities, industry, and other partners in decision-making, based on guidance from public health authorities. Coast Guard’s levels of service have been maintained at a normal operational level since the onset of the pandemic. National Standard Operating Procedures are in place, including testing of all crew boarding icebreaking vessels to the Arctic, and increased sanitation measures onboard all vessels. The health and safety of crews and mariners remain Coast Guard’s top priority.

Due to the pandemic, all public interaction by ships’ crews, including engagement activities, community visits, and ship tours have been cancelled. To protect the people of the Arctic, crews and vessels are avoiding contact with communities unless required for emergencies or critical work, in which case appropriate public health officials are consulted and all necessary precautions are taken to limit human interaction.

Coast Guard’s Arctic season runs into November; however, operational plans are subject to change due to ice conditions and/or weather, changes by industry to their shipping schedules, or other unexpected situations. Weather changes can happen quickly, especially in the Arctic.

Additional multimedia

CCGS Terry Fox in Frobisher Bay, near Iqaluit, Nunavut on icebreaking standby. Photo: Brian Tattuinee


“All Canadians can be very proud of our Coast Guard for successfully navigating COVID-19 to provide essential services to the Arctic. The continual growth in commercial shipping and the increasing effects of climate change have placed greater demands on our officers and crews than ever before. It has been no small task adjusting to our new operational reality during this pandemic, but they have persisted to ensure that our mariners and our marine environment continue to be protected.”

The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“We continue to engage and work closely with Inuit, First Nations and Métis governments and organizations, provincial and territorial governments and industry partners to ensure the safety of our crews and the Arctic communities we serve. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, we are adapting plans and operations as necessary. Coast Guard’s Arctic region is continuing to grow. We remain committed to building our new region with our partners and working closely together to ensure sustained delivery of essential programs and services in the Arctic.”

Neil O’Rourke, Assistant Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Arctic Region

Quick facts

  • As of August 31, 2020, our Arctic Operations logged the following:

    • 37 commercial escorts
    • 15 helo-based ice reconnaissance missions
    • 1 commercial harbour breakout
    • 45 Arctic based emergencies requiring deployment/taskings of search and rescue assets

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Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard
Arctic Region

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