Is the present state of Canadian Arctic shipping infrastructure sufficient? No, Canadian Arctic freight shipping and cruise tourism infrastructure are underdeveloped. The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has called on the Arctic coastal nations to develop the necessary shipping infrastructure in addition to developing the Polar Code. Given the changing geopolitical circumstances that will no doubt impact the Arctic, Canada as an Arctic Nation needs to move forward to develop the necessary sovereignty shipping infrastructure in the North. We do not have the benefit of time – this requires immediate action as recent incidents have shown. Canada has both national and international obligations to ensure that we acquire and maintain a serious and real capability in the Arctic in support of international shipping. At a minimum, we need to updated hydrographic charts. It will also require Canada to develop the necessary strategic plan in cooperation with other Arctic nations and spend real dollars.
K. Joseph Spears in this April 2014 Canadian Sailings article argues that Canada needs to look at this as an opportunity rather than expenditure. We need to explore more fully partnering with the United States on providing this Arctic shipping infrastructure on the cost shared basis rather than fighting a rearguard action concerning sovereignty over these waters. The NORAD model that works on continental air defense or the St Lawrence Seaway may be a prime example when it comes to US-Canada cooperation on Arctic freight shipping infrastructure allowing each country to maintain its national sovereignty. With the United States chairing the Arctic Council starting in 2015, we have a three-year window to get this right. Canadians expect given our nation’s renewed passion and interest in Arctic issues for Canada to lead on the subject of Arctic shipping. It is a time for action. The future is now for Arctic nations.