Canada seeks to boost Northern marine security

“We have to know what vessels are doing in our own waters”


Canada is looking at new radar technology and other ways of communication to increase marine security to watch over its enormous northern coastline and keep out any unauthorized marine traffic.

“We need to know what’s going on. We have to know what vessels are doing in our own waters,” said Lieutenant-Commander L.J. Richardson in an interview from Ottawa.

Marine security in the North was one of the topics discussed at a recent meeting of the Arctic Intergovernmental Working Group in Yellowknife.

This 40-plus member group, comprised of representatives from federal and territorial government offices and agencies, as well as the Canadian Coast Guard, Canada Customs and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., meets twice a year to discuss security issues in the North.

Richardson said Ottawa is paying more attention to what’s going on in the Great Lakes and St-Lawrence Seaway than in the North, but improving marine security in the North is likely to be the next priority, particularly if global warming brings a longer ice-free shipping season.

New technologies are already being explored for use in the North.

Officials are considering a Web-based information site, called Maritime Information Management Data Exchange. This would be a classified site where marine officials could share information about marine traffic.

The Department of National Defence also plans to spend up to $43 million over five years for a High Frequency Surface Wave Radar that would work over a long range – essential in the North.

The HFSWR system follows the curve of the ocean’s surface, instead of putting out waves in a straight line. Because it has a longer range, it could follow ships that already emit an automated identification message that tells their course and speed.

“With the HFSWR, we could see who is broadcasting and who is not broadcasting,” Richardson said.

Rather than building towers along the coasts for the HFSWR in the North, Richardson suggests it would be more effective to use aircraft.

Combined with satellites, he said this could provide a much more complete picture of activity on the water.

A satellite project, called Polar Epsilon, is also underway. The space agency has put one satellite in an orbit that covers the North, and a second, more advanced satellite will be launched late next year.

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