Land to sea with low GHGs: Arctic eco-safe transit of personnel and cargo from ship to shore

Competitive Projects

Up to $1.2M in phased development funding to propel technology forward

The challenge

The Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) are seeking innovative solutions that can enable the safe transit of personnel and cargo between Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels (AOPV) and shore, in the absence of shore infrastructure (e.g., docks or jetties), with an emphasis on minimizing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for any proposed solution.

What IDEaS provides

Funding of up to $200,000 will be provided for innovative solutions to help advance this challenge over a performance period of up to 6 months. There is a potential opportunity for further funding of up to $1 million for a performance period of up to a year should the solution be found successful and promising by DND/CAF.

What innovators bring

Solutions that demonstrate the ability to safely transport personnel and equipment between the AOPV underway and shore, in or over Arctic waters as well as operate in extreme cold and weather environments, with an emphasis on minimizing the GHG emissions.


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Background and context

As outlined in the Government of Canada’s defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE) 2017, and in the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework (ANPF) 2019, the CAF will enhance its mobility, reach and footprint in Canada’s North to support operations and exercises, and its ability to project force in the region. Furthermore, there is a push to minimise environmental pressures such as pollution in ecologically sensitive regions such as Canada’s Arctic, in order to reduce adverse environmental effects. To that end, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is committed to reducing its overall GHG emissions to meet the Greening Government Strategy net-zero 2050 commitment. Thus, all proposed solutions must take into account this commitment, and demonstrate how they minimize GHG emissions.

The Arctic environment presents logistical and mobility challenges to safely transport personnel and cargo (e.g., equipment, supplies, small vehicles) between the ship and the shore, and up on to the shore. The presence and movement of ice floes, poorly defined and uncharted shorelines, lack of shore infrastructure (e.g., docks or jetties), and extensive tidal ranges make it challenging to use traditional on-water delivery systems embarked in ships such as Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) and Aluminum-hull landing craft. While operations will typically take place during the navigable season of May to October, the conditions that any solution is expected to encounter are:

  • Open water
  • Slushy water
  • Sea ice (1st year, thicknesses range: 0.5m to 1m, concentration range: 4/10 to 8/10)
  • Rocky, unstable shore line
  • Shallow waters
  • Varying sea states
  • High winds
  • Poor or degraded visibility, where visibility is restricted by fog, mist, falling snow, heavy rainstorms, etc.
  • Operating in quasi-complete darkness, where periods of darkness can last over 30 days
  • Sub-zero temperatures down to -35°C
  • Dangerous wildlife posing a threat to personnel safety (e.g., polar bears, wolves)

Essential outcomes

Proposed solutions must demonstrate the following:

  • The ability to safely transport personnel and equipment between the AOPV underway and shore, in or over Arctic waters, noting that:
    • No shore infrastructure is anticipated to exist; and
    • The solution is to be launched from, and recovered back onboard, the AOPV.
  • The ability to operate in extreme cold (i.e., -30°C or colder) and extreme weather environments (i.e., high winds, high sea states, poor visibility); and
  • The ability to operate with GHG emissions reduced by 25% compared to a similarly powered diesel or gasoline engine used for propulsion, and without compromising speed, endurance, or carrying capacity.
    • Note: Solutions that only use “renewable” or “bio” fuels in standard engines as a means of GHG reduction will not be considered, as these still emit GHGs into the sensitive environment.

Desired outcomes

Proposed solutions should include capabilities and considerations such as, but not limited to the following:

  • Current or future capability to operate with zero GHG emissions
  • Current or future capability (i.e., can be upgraded) to operate as an autonomous or semi-autonomous solution
  • Power/energy/fuel/recharge source readily available on board RCN ships, or easily stored on board RCN ships
  • Range considerations:
    • Capable of transiting from ship’s anchorage to shore (up to 15 km, each way)
    • Capable of transiting from the sea across land for distances up to 15 km from the shoreline on rubble/rocky terrain
    • Capable of making multiple trips without extensive refueling/recharging
  • Size considerations:
    • Set up/tear down to be conducted on the Flight deck or Quarter deck of the AOPV, and under non-ideal conditions (cold, heat, wind, rain)
    • Small footprint while in storage on the AOPV (NATO modular mission storage compatible, and fits within ISO 10 and ISO 20 shipping container dimensions)
    • Within AOPV ship’s crane capacity of 20T
    • Carrying capacity: equipment, supplies, small vehicles, and personnel
    • Crew size and number of additional personnel that can be transported
  • Designs that demonstrate a minimum need for complex machinery and associated maintenance (i.e., no increase in logistical or maintenance requirements when compared to a fossil fuel burning system).
  • Other maintenance considerations to be taken into account:
    • Availability of qualified personnel to troubleshoot and maintain the solution
    • Lack of logistics supply chain in the Arctic
    • Isolation in the Arctic
    • Risk of failure
    • Maintenance time
  • Withstands impacts from hard or soft ice, and rocks
  • Maneuverability to avoid ice floes
  • Stability against capsize
  • Survivability/shelter for personnel in harsh conditions or emergencies
  • Capable of operating in both extreme cold (Arctic) and hot/humid environments (e.g., Caribbean Sea) for humanitarian missions

Supplemental information

Arctic operations

The primary RCN shore based support facility in the Canadian Arctic is the Nanisivik Naval Facility (NNF) located in Strathcona Sound, on Baffin Island, Nunavut.

  • There is anchorage area in the northern portion of the Sound.
  • Strathcona Sound freezes in the winter, and thaws in the spring. There are ice floes and features in the harbour throughout the summer.
  • Navigation charts for Arctic waters are not detailed enough to capture the water depth and composition of the sea floor close into land.
  • The tidal range is roughly one metre, which makes the approach, and transition from sea to shore extremely challenging using traditional means (RHIB, Aluminum-hull landing craft).

A successful ship to shore connector must be able to transit from a ship in Strathcona Sound, through or over water, through or over varying densities of ice and slush, back into or over the water, and onto a rocky and unstable shoreline.

Weather (Nanisivik, NU):

  • Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from -31°C to 9°C, and is rarely below -38°C or above 14°C.
  • The warm season lasts for 2.5 months, from mid-June to the end of August, with an average daily high temperature of 2°C. The hottest time of the year is mid-July, with an average high of 9°C and low of 4°C.
  • The cold season lasts for 4.5 months, from late November to early April, with an average daily high temperature below -18°C. The coldest day of the year is usually in late February, with an average low of -31°C and high of -24°C.
  • Humidity: 0% year round.
  • Source

Humanitarian aid missions / Tropical operations

A second use for the solution is during humanitarian aid missions in temperate and tropical climates, such as Haiti in the Caribbean Sea. Any ship to shore connector utilised by the AOPV should also be able to operate effectively in such an environment.

Weather (Port-au-Prince, Haiti):

  • Temperature: Daily high temperatures are around 33°C. Daily low temperatures are around 24°C
  • Humidity: 44%-98%
  • Rainfall: Rainy season lasts from late February to late December with a sliding 31 day rainfall of at least 13 mm. The month with the most rain is May with an average of 53 mm.
  • Source

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