Amendments aim for better arctic waters protection

Rules changing to tighten up pollution controls


Canada’s Arctic waters should be better protected through amendments to the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, which were announced by Canada’s transport minister John Baird June 17.

“With these amendments, Canada increases its ability to protect its Arctic waters from pollution by expanding the geographic area covered under the Act, which is aimed at preventing ship-source pollution,” Baird said. “These measures will help to ensure environmentally responsible shipping in our Arctic waters.”

The amendments increase the area defined as Canada’s Arctic waters from 100 to 200 nautical miles offshore. The measures, which received royal assent on June 11, mean Canadian authority over Arctic shipping has been extended by about 185 kilometres.

Within this area, ship captains must report “any discharge of pollutants into Arctic waters.”

”The amended Act demonstrates our government’s commitment to promoting economic development in Canada’s North while protecting our country’s environmental heritage and asserting our sovereignty,” said Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq in a Transport Canada news release.

But, at the same time that the federal government has beefed up its control over Arctic waters, it appears to be backing away from a plan to invest in a small fleet of Arctic patrol boats.
Canadian Press reported earlier this month that the federal government has put off asking shipbuilders for ideas on the construction the Arctic patrol boats.

Two years ago Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the navy would acquire six to eight ice-capable vessels for nearly year-round operation in the Arctic.

The ships were to cost about $3.1 billion, with about $4.3 billion for operations and maintenance over their 25-year lifespan.

Harper said the ships’ hulls would be reinforced with steel and be able to travel through ice up to a metre thick.

The ships would be armed and have a helicopter landing pad.

The most recent plan called for six Class 5 ice-capable ships, armed with 25-mm cannons — smaller weapons than originally planned for. The ships were also to also be slower and have less cargo capacity.

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