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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers (AMSA, 2009: 32-42). The last 34 years have seen the most transit
sailings. From 1969 to the end of the 1980s, more than 30 complete transits of the passage were
undertaken by a variety of vessels. The bulk of these voyages were Canadian, of which most were
involved in the search for hydrocarbon resources in the Canadian offshore area of the Beaufort Sea.
Between 1984 and 2004, a total of 23 commercial cruise ships and 15 recreational yachts
accomplished transits of the NWP. Cruise ships operating in these waters doubled in 2006, from 11
to 22.
2010 saw 26 transits, out of which only three were commercial (Lasserre and Pelletier, 2011:
1470). Several navigation accidents took place in the summer of 2010. In most instances ships ran
aground due to poor accuracy of nautical maps. None were reported to collide with pingoes.
The modern history of Arctic marine transport indicates that despite the historical attempt to make
the NWP a viable transit route, it is unlikely these waters will become the passage it was originally
intended. Thus, destination shipping is anticipated to increase in the years ahead mostly driven by the
search for resources, in particular oil and gas.
Destination Routes
Re-supply of commodities has been and still is the most stable element of shipping in the Canadian
Arctic. Nearly all the voyages are destination, coming from the Atlantic to support the sealift of
cargo to local communities.
Current shipping demand in the Eastern Arctic involves up to 22 seasonal trips and occurs during
the 100 day navigation season that span from mid-July to the end of October (most communities
receive at most two re-supply calls a year). Each voyage can include deliveries to 8-9 communities.
Recently, marine operations averaged 100 voyages by large ships in summer. Churchill is a prime
trading port in the east. In 2004, 14 out of 18 foreign voyages to the Canadian Arctic called the port
of Churchill, shipping wheat and grain to international markets.
In the western Canadian Arctic, cargo is handled by tugs and barges, with most cargo shipped down
the Mackenzie River to Tuktoyaktuk for transfer to ships with deeper ocean drafts. Current shipping
demand involves 14-15 seasonal tug-barge trips. These operations take place in what has been
labelled the
Mackenzie River Route
– a route of some regional significance. The western Arctic sailing
season is typically 60 days between mid-July and mid-September. It is anticipated that by 2020,
annual re-supply demand will require up to 30 ship trips.