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Conference addresses challenges, opportunities, for Arctic shipping


OTTAWA, Ont.–In her opening keynote address to the Warming of the North Conference participants in Ottawa this week, Yazmine Laroche, Associate Deputy Minister, Transport,  Infrastructure and Communities, commented that climate change in the northern region appears to be resulting in more precipitation, reduced ice cover, and a retreat of permafrost.

The conference addressed challenges and opportunities for Arctic transportation, supply chain management, and economic development.

Transportation and economic development changes result in both challenge and opportunity, she said.

Permafrost retreat means instability of the ground during the winter road season-changing sea ice patterns mean new challenges for sea transport. Lower water levels in inland waterways create a whole new level of transport challenges.

“We at the federal level are working with academia, other government and industry to mitigate these effects. The Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative has a focus on permafrost and marine transport in partnership with the Government of Nunavut-looking at the effects of permafrost at the Iqaluit airport, which is undertaking a major rehabilitation. The knowledge gained will aim at more resilient airstrips and taxiways,” said Laroche.

In the Yukon, the government is fostering studies of the long term effects of permafrost degradation so transport planners can more effectively allocate resources. Transport Canada is also working with universities on stream flow in the Mackenzie River. The Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative is launching hydrographic surveys on seaplanes as many northern routes lack navigation.

Transport Canada is also partnering with other departments on disaster mitigation efforts. Addressing emerging transportation and infrastructure in the north means working with other partners internationally. Canada has a robust marine safety regime and is working to share expertise with international partners on a new Polar Code, which, when in force, will reduce the gap between Canada’s existing regulations and international ones, and strengthen the Arctic shipping regime at home, Laroche said.

Collaboration is required among multiple stakeholders, and government departments are expanding in the north to deliver services locally.

“The north holds vast potential for resource development. To effectively deliver it’s important we collaborate. We need to continue to identify common interests, working together in research and information sharing, to ensure programs are better tailored to address northern realities. In the Northern Marine Transportation Corridors Initiative, we have an important framework to guide and support marine transport in the north.  It’s rare in government that we have the opportunity to get things right at the beginning of something,” Laroche said.


Julia Kuzeljevich

Julia Kuzeljevich

Julia Kuzeljevich is Editor of Canadian Shipper. She has been writing about transportation and logistics issues since 1999.
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