The future face of Arctic sovereignty

The sea-borne defenders of Canada’s Arctic are already beginning to take shape, at least on the drawing board.

The sea-borne defenders of Canada’s Arctic are already beginning to take shape, at least on the drawing board.

But five years remain until these ships will be seen off the Yukon’s northern coast.

In July, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his government would build a fleet of six to eight Arctic offshore patrol ships to strengthen surveillance and guard the Canadian Arctic.

“The steel-reinforced hulls will be able to crunch through ice up to a metre thick, meaning the ships will be able to patrol the length of the Northwest Passage during the months a Canadian naval presence is necessary,” said Harper.

In regards to Canada’s North, “we either use it or lose it,” he added.

There is currently no year-round naval presence in the Canadian North.

“The navy can only operate in northern waters for a short period of time, and only when there is no ice,” said a release from the Department of National Defence.

Only weeks after Harper’s announcement, a Russian nuclear submarine plopped its flag on the ocean floor at the North Pole, raising concern among Canadian northern sovereignty wonks.

Last week marked the first meeting of the Arctic offshore patrol ships combined project team, a multinational group headed by Ontario-based BMT Fleet Technology.

The team will include Aker Shipyards, a Vancouver-based naval consulting company with experience developing patrol vessels for the Royal New Zealand Navy and the Irish Naval Service.

Most recently, Aker designed and built the KV Svalbard, a new icebreaking offshore patrol vessel for the Norwegian Coast Guard.

The Arctic offshore patrol ships pose a unique challenge in that they must be adaptable to a  diverse range of Canadian environments, including the Canadian Arctic, the Newfoundland Grand Banks and the Pacific Northwest.

Equipped with a helicopter-capable rear deck, the ice-hardened ships will be armed with a light- to medium-calibre machine gun as well as at least one 50-calibre remote-control heavy machine gun.

The ships can respond to non-military threats, such as “illegal attempts to exploit renewable and nonrenewable natural resources,” criminal activities and “unauthorized transits … by foreign ships.”

Currently, the United States and member states of the European Union pay little heed to Canadian claims of jurisdiction over the Northwest Passage, calling it an “international strait.”

Due to climate change, the thawing Northwest Passage is emerging as a viable channel for international shipping, as well as a potential hotspot for natural resources.

With a stronger Arctic presence, Ottawa would be better able to assert fishing and environmental regulations on the passage, as well as fiscal and smuggling laws.

The first Arctic offshore patrol ship is expected to be delivered by 2013, with the full project to be completed by 2019.

The ships are estimated to cost $3.1 billion.

Just Posted

New transitional home opens its doors

Supportive housing, semi-independent living and drop-in services are set to be offered

Yukonstruct, Poor Creature wrap up legal arguments

Justice Ron Veale is expected to give his decision on the case next week.

Second attempted murder charge laid in downtown Whitehorse shooting

Two men are now facing a total of 17 charges in relation to the shooting outside the Elite Hotel

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World

Yukon Energy announces rate hike

The average Yukon household will pay an extra $20.48 every month

RCMP asks B.C. cannabis shop to remove image of Sam Steele

Owner happy to comply with RCMP, but wants more information first

EDITORIAL: Time for the Yukon Party’s opening act

Having a competitive leadership race could be good for the party

City news, briefly

Some of the news from the Dec. 2 Whitehorse city council meeting

Arctic Sports Inter-School Championship draws athletes from as far as Juneau

The three-day event included more than 300 participants from kindergarten to Grade 12

Access road to Telegraph Creek now open

Ministry has spent $300K to date on work to clear rockslide

Freedom Trails responds to lawsuit

A statement of defence was to the Yukon Supreme Court on Nov. 19.

Whitehorse RCMP seeking suspects after robbery at Yukon Inn

Robbery took place in early hours of Nov. 27, with suspects armed with a knife and “large stick”

Yukonomist: Your yogurt container’s dirty secret

You should still recycle, but recycling one might be giving you a false sense of environmental virtue

Most Read