Monday, August 13, 2007

The icebreakers we should build

Further to Damian Penny's post at Daimnation!, and the government's northern military plans, a former senior member of the Canadian Coast Guard has some reasoned suggestions :
While the prospect of armed troops in the Arctic and associated infrastructure are commendable initiatives, I believe there are other more creative, cost-effective, supportive methods of providing better service, in less time, with greater benefits to the Inuit community and the current and future development of the Canadian Arctic.

In an era when the country needs a strong Canadian Coast Guard to support domestic responsibilities in its waterways, the CCG is being diminished and reduced on an almost daily basis. I believe that a more realistic approach would allow our new government to provide a much more cost- and mission-effective solution to this age-old problem of Arctic sovereignty...

• Acquire three multi-mission heavy icebreakers capable of operating in the Arctic on a year-round basis (not for a few months of the year, as with the proposed medium-capable icebreakers). These vessels need to be the best in the world and capable of delivering a suite of federal and territorial programs and services in the area they are designed to operate in. Such vessel designs are currently available and could be purchased and/or leased and in service in less than five years at a cost considerably below the original estimate of $1 billion apiece [but good political luck: see Damian's Update - MC].

• Primary missions would include, but not be limited to: search and rescue; Arctic science; hydrography; oceanography; fisheries management and protection; law enforcement; maritime security; pollution response (federal responsibility north of 60 degrees north); icebreaking, ice reconnaissance and monitoring, particularly in light of global warming; ice escort, harbour breakouts; remote community support, supporting Arctic economic development; in addition to Arctic sovereignty...

• Such vessels, although much more capable than the ones proposed by the government, would have smaller crews and have the ability to accommodate appropriate mission-specific personnel (i.e. scientists, pollution response specialists, RCMP, Armed Forces, etc.)

• The design of these icebreakers is such that they can often conduct several missions at once and thus achieve a much greater return on our investment and operating costs.

The support to economic and social development is one that is much deserved by our Inuit community. Given the remoteness of the communities, size of their territories, and the difficult environment, they deserve the support of the federal government in a manner that makes sense. While they do not have access to a national highway (Trans-Canada) or railway system, the marine and air modes of transportation are their only connections and, in most cases, airports are not options. Despite their reliance on marine transportation in their everyday life (fishing and hunting), they do not get the same level of support as their southern colleagues because of their remote location and comparatively small numbers. A federal icebreaker with an IFR helicopter can provide much needed support quickly, in addition to extending the reach and range of Canadian sovereignty...

Rod Stright is a former director of operations with the Canadian Coast Guard and has more than 30 years experience with the CCG.
For a a brief discussion of Arctic sovereignty issues see this comment of mine.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

In order to fully protect the Canadian Arctic territories, I think it would take much more than the Canadian Rangers. The Russians put up their flags and the Danish are coming too.

9:41 p.m., August 13, 2007  

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