(Felicity Barringer/New York Times, 6 March 2013) -- At a time when large dams are being taken down, not put up, the state of Alaska is proposing to construct one of the tallest and most expensive hydroelectric dams ever built in North America. The Alaska Energy Authority is planning to build a 735-foot, $5.2 billion structure on the Susitna River in a largely empty south-central part of the state, which is watered by runoff from the arc of the Alaska Range. The dam, designed to generate up to 600 megawatts of electricity, would create a new power supply for more than two-thirds of the state’s population. But in Alaska, where natural energy resources and wildlife are both foundations of the economy, the proposed dam presents twin conundrums. One is economic: which is better, creating a reliable source of hydroelectricity and weaning some of the state off natural gas, or building a spur off a proposed pipeline to bring gas from the North Slope to the populated region from Fairbanks to the Kenai Peninsula? Or both? The other is environmental: what serves the environment best, replacing natural gas-fired electricity with hydroelectricity, which is free of greenhouse gas emissions, or keeping the Susitna watershed untrammeled and avoiding the risks involved in changing the dynamics of a major salmon stream? ...
Posted 10 March 2013; 8:56:17 PM. Permalink
(CBC e, 6 March 2013) -- Ottawa has signed a $288 million contract for the design of new Arctic offshore patrol ships as part of its shipbuilding procurement project. The federal government and J.D. Irving signed a 30-month planning and engineering definition contract that will establish what ships to build and how to build them. The contract with Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax was announced by Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose on Thursday. Neither would say how many Arctic patrol ships would be built under the deal. The original estimate was between six and eight. The contract is expected to support up to 200 jobs in Nova Scotia. Irving said there will be an additional 75 jobs in other provinces. Ambrose said the design contract will ensure that construction of the ships can begin once the build contract is signed. Construction of the vessels is expected to begin in 2015.
Posted 10 March 2013; 7:26:24 PM. Permalink
(Laurel Andrews/Alaska Dispatch, 10 March 2013) -- It’s a bird, it’s a plane – no wait, it’s a blimp! For the first time since the 1920s, a modern day airship will travel to Alaska this summer to conduct field work and show off its potential for becoming a permanent fixture in Alaska’s skies. Francis Grover, business manager with Skyship Services, said the company is “quite excited” for the northward journey. The blimp, a Skyship 600, will arrive in early July and plans to stick around until September. Lifting off from Orlando, Fl., the blimp will travel for 6 weeks at speeds of 40 miles per hour before it lands in the 49th state, making stops along the way. The Skyship 600 is the largest blimp in operation in the world, at a length of 200 feet; it's able to carry a 2 ton payload, and 15 passengers at a time. The blimp will usually cruise for around 18 hours at a time, but its record for staying aloft is 50 hours straight, Grover said. During its time in the state, the airship will conduct surveys for oil companies of wetlands and other vegetative areas; Grover declined to name the companies it will be working for. He also hopes the company will “spead some goodwill” during its time in Alaska and show off the potential airships have in the Last Frontier. The company hopes to make return trips to the state, and eventually have airships based in Alaska full-time. According to a press release sent out by Alaska Sen. Lesil McGuire, blimps have potential as “outstanding platforms for aerial surveys” due to their slow speeds and low altitude flying.
Posted 10 March 2013; 7:23:58 PM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/Barents Observer, 20 February 2013) -- The Russian Government has approved the strategic program on Arctic development up to 2020, signed by President Vladimir Putin. The strategic program, which was published by the government today and signed by President Vladimir Putin, includes development of an integrated transport system in the Arctic, establishment of a competitive scientific and technological sector, development of international cooperation and the preservation of the Arctic as a zone of peace. The document, which is quite general in its formulations and covers almost every aspect of management of this huge area, guarantees state support to the development of infrastructure for transport, industry and energy, as well as to scientific, scientific-technical and innovational activities. During the first stage of implementation of the program (to 2015) Russia plans to focus on development of infrastructure for communication and information in the High North, establishment of centers for search and rescue along the Northern Sea Route, strengthening of FSB’s coast guard service and development of an integrated national system for environmental monitoring of the Arctic zone. The program on Arctic development states the main priorities for state investment policy, regulations of labor relations and social politics in the Arctic zone.
Posted 21 February 2013; 12:56:18 AM. Permalink
(CP via Alaska Dispatch, 19 February 2013) -- It's time to rethink the blimp, a Canadian House of Commons committee suggests in a new report. Airships are often associated with the Hindenberg crash of the 1930s, and their development was overtaken by that of the airplane, reducing their use in recent years mostly to props in ad campaigns. But there's room for certain kinds of them to play a new role in Canada, especially when it comes to reaching remote communities in the North, the transportation committee recommended in a recently released report. "Hybrid air vehicles may one day provide a superior solution, as they can travel over snowfall, frozen water or impenetrable terrain, and require no roads or rail installations to operate," says the report. The committee's look at airships was part of a broader study examining more creative ways to address some of the shortfalls in Canada's transportation sector. When it comes to airships, a number of barriers exist to putting them into more widespread use, the committee heard. Among them is a lack of infrastructure, trained personnel and licensing regimes, said Barry Prentice, a professor at the University of Manitoba and president of ISO Polar Airships, a research institute that promotes the use of the vehicles. His was one of two groups that testified before the committee. Prentice is adamant the time to start developing those capabilities is now.
Posted 19 February 2013; 9:53:07 PM. Permalink
(National Post via Vancouver Sun, 17 January 2013) -- Dozens of communities in the country’s North, say hello to the iPhone — or BlackBerry Bold. BCE Inc.’s northern subsidiary, NorthwesTel, announced sweeping modernization plans for Canada’s northern parts Thursday that include rolling out third-generation or “3G” mobile services to 67 communities for the first time. This will be the most ambitious expansion of communications technology ever undertaken in Northern Canada In total, nearly a quarter of a billion dollars will be spent over the next five years deploying more advanced wireless services as well as doubling — and in some cases tripling — Internet speeds across the phone company’s copper network in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. “This will be the most ambitious expansion of communications technology ever undertaken in Northern Canada,” the BCE unit said in a release. A filing was made Wednesday with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which is holding a public consultation on the $233-million proposal. ... Spurred by the Ottawa’s aims to increase economic development across the region and guard the country’s sovereignty in the Arctic, the commission has made modernizing the North a priority. The CRTC plans to hold public hearings on the plan in June in Inuvik and Whitehorse.
Posted 19 January 2013; 7:21:27 PM. Permalink
(Subsea World News, 18 January 2013) -- Arctic Fibre Inc. announced that it will partner with Anchorage-based Quintillion Networks, LLC to provide broadband telecommunications services to more than 26,500 Alaska residents living along the Alaskan North Slope and Bering Sea coastline, and to provide a geographically diverse alternate fibre route for traffic from the United States to Europe and Asia. This provision of virtually unlimited bandwidth will enable government to reduce the cost of providing services to citizens and enable consumers to access faster Internet speeds now available in most urban communities in Alaska. Arctic Fibre was established in 2009 to explore deploying a fibre optic telecommunications system through the Canadian Arctic. Arctic Fibre plans to construct a 15,167 km (9,424 mile) subsea fibre optic cable extending from Tokyo, Japan to London, England via the Bering Strait, Beaufort Sea and Canadian Arctic with a planned in-service date of November 2014. Arctic Fibre’s backbone network will reduce the cost of wholesale bandwidth by more than 85% in the Canadian communities of Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Taloyoak, Igloolik, Hall Beach, Cape Dorset and Iqaluit. The company successfully concluded a capacity nomination process for Canadian carriers in late 2012 and is now moving to formal contracts with a group of Canadian carriers and government agencies. In December 2012, Arctic Fibre entered into an agreement with Quintillion Networks to serve the Alaska market as a wholesaler providing bandwidth to existing Alaska telecommunications carriers on a non-discriminatory basis. ... Quintillion’s Chief Operating Officer, Hans Roeterink, said Quintillion also intends to construct a 490-mile fibre parallel to Alaska’s Dalton Highway from Prudhoe Bay south to Fairbanks, and then to connect with existing terrestrial fibre networks to Anchorage and south through existing subsea fibres to mainland US. “This terrestrial portion of Quintillion’s network will enable high capacity connectivity for Alaskan customers as well as an alternative route for customers from the United States to other regions of the world”, added Roeterink.
Posted 18 January 2013; 7:47:07 PM. Permalink
(Invest in the Faroes, 8 January 2013) -- After a recent slow period, Faroese shipbuilding yards are seeing progress again. This year Faroese shipbuilding companies will build and repair ships for an estimated 11 million Euros – a figure that is expected to more than double by 2015. The order books of Faroese shipbuilding yards are filling up again, and companies are expecting significant growth in the next three years. One estimation conducted by the shipbuilding companies themselves shows that 2013 will see the industry building and repairing ships for approximately 11 million Euros, with growth continuing for the following three years. By 2015, the industry is estimated to have an annual turnover of 23 million Euros. 'We currently have between 15 and 20 ships on our hands, which is more than usual', said Mouritz Mohr, director of the shipbuilding company Mest, in an interview with the newspaper Dimmalætting. He added that most of the orders were small repairs, but that there were also some larger, more long-term jobs. Mest is the largest shipbuilding company in the Faroe Islands, and in addition to its main operations in Tórshavn, the company also has departments in Skála, Rúnavík and Vestmanna. Aside from Mest's facilities, there are also three smaller shipbuilding yards in Klaksvík, Rúnavík and Fuglafjørður, all run by other companies.
Posted 8 January 2013; 4:44:37 PM. Permalink
(Ayesha Rascoe/Reuters via Scientific American, 3 January 2013) -- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Opponents of Royal Dutch Shell's ambitious Arctic oil program have called on the Obama administration to put offshore drilling plans in the region on hold after one of the company's oil rigs broke away from tow boats in high seas and ran aground off Alaska. The Natural Resources Defense Council and The Wilderness Society on Thursday said the accident involving Shell's Kulluk oil rig is new evidence that oil companies are not prepared to safely manage the extreme conditions of the Arctic. The 30-year-old Kulluk rig ran aground on New Year's Eve in what were described as "near hurricane" conditions while it was being towed south for the winter. "This string of mishaps by Shell makes it crystal clear that we are not ready to drill in the Arctic," Chuck Clusen, NRDC's director of Alaska projects, told reporters in a teleconference. The green groups said they plan to send a letter to the Department of the Interior demanding that it stop issuing permits in the Arctic and that it prevent drilling in the sensitive area until it is determined that the environment can be fully protected. Ocean conservation group Oceana also called on the department to stop oil drilling activities in the Arctic after the Kulluk's grounding. Shell has spent $4.5 billion since 2005 to develop the Arctic's vast oil reserves, but the company has faced intense opposition from environmentalists and native groups as well as regulatory and technical hurdles.
Posted 4 January 2013; 5:07:41 PM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/BarentsObserver, 4 December 2012) -- Shopping has flourished in Murmansk in course of the last ten years. The town has several large shopping centers, the largest for the time being is “Forum” with its 22.000 m² and four floors of shops, restaurants and cinemas. The new mall will be located in the center of Murmansk next to the O’key supermarket, which opened in 2008 and has become a huge success among Murmansk citizens. The mall will have three floors with chain shops like “Zara”, “H&M”, “Pull&Bear”, a cinema with nine screens (two of them IMAX), a food court and a large playground, B-port writes. The mall is being built by the investment company “Dorinda Invest”, a company specializing in building malls all over Russia. Update: People from Tromsø have called and reminded the BarentsObserver that the Jekta shopping mall in Tromsø is also 65,000 m². So the two towns will be competing in having "the world's largest shopping mall north of the Arctic Circle."
Posted 11 December 2012; 2:58:53 PM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 23 November 2012) -- Although the season is not yet completely over – there are still two Finnish icebreakers in westbound transit from Alaska to Denmark – some remarks on the 2012 season can be made. There has been a tenfold increase in the number of vessels using NSR during the last two years. This season 46 vessels have sailed the route, compared to 34 in 2011 and only four in 2010. The total cargo transported on the NSR this year is 1 261 545 tons – a 53 percent increase from 2011, when 820 789 tons was shipped on the route. 25 of the vessels sailed NSR eastbound, starting from Murmansk, Arkhangelsk or Baydaratskaya Bay. 21 sailed in a westbound direction, a report from Rosatomflot reads. The report is given to BarentsObserver by the Centre for High North Logistics, an international knowledge hub on Arctic transport and logistics for businesses. Petroleum products constitute the largest cargo group. A total of 894 079 tons of diesel fuel, gas condensate, jet fuel, LNG and other petrol products has been transported on 26 vessels in 2012. 18 of the tankers sailed from west to east, eight in the opposite direction. ... The second largest cargo group was iron ore and coal, which was transported along the route six times. The two Finnish icebreakers Nordica and Fennica will probably be the last vessels to use NSR this season. The vessels are underway from Alaska to Denmark.
Posted 10 December 2012; 10:48:17 AM. Permalink
(The Canadian Press via Yahoo! News, 17 October 2012) -- OTTAWA - The Harper government's much-heralded Arctic patrol ships will cost more to maintain because National Defence won't be signing a long-term service contract for the mini-icebreakers until the boats are well into construction. The ships are already 2-3 years behind, according to project schedules, and could fall further behind if contract talks with Irving Shipyard hit a snag. An internal briefing to former Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino last fall noted the project was full of financial questions, starting with the actual price tag for building up to eight warships. The ships, first announced in 2007, were projected to cost $3.1 billion to build and $4.3 billion to maintain over their expected 25 year life cycle. But the presentation to Fantino shows a decision to "separately compete" the multi-billion dollar in-service contract "after the ships are in build" could have significant implications. Among other things, the delay in a support contract would "increase the cost of ownership," and design changes that might be incorporated into the system for ease of long-term maintenance won't get done.
Posted 28 October 2012; 12:39:24 PM. Permalink
(Regnum, 8 October 2012) -- As of 5 October, 3,546 educational institutions of a total of 5,440 are connected to district heating (65%). These figures were reported on 8 October by the press service of the Far Eastern envoy after a meeting chaired by the Minister for Development of the Far East - the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Viktor Ishayev. At a meeting called to discuss preparations for winter, it was announced that 1,308 health facilities of 2,452 were connected to district heating (53%). Health care facilities in the Sakhalin (22) and Khabarovsk (278) regions have yet to be connected. 67% of Far East homes are connected to district heating. The envoy called on the authorities to fully provide heat to institutions of education and health care. He also instructed officials to undertake appropriate checks across the districts to identify connection problems and to get them fixed. [this is an edited version of the original]
Posted 14 October 2012; 5:18:29 PM. Permalink
(BakuToday, 11 October 2012) -- Government scientists from the region of Khabarovsk have developed new asphalt mixtures designed specifically for the Kamchatka climate. Acting Minister of Road Construction in the region, Vladimir Kayumov told BakuToday that the new process could double the lifespan of the province's roads. According to Kayumov, the new asphalt mixture that is being introduced is prepared with "ash soil," which is very plastic. Current formulations do not withstand annual freeze-thaw cycle very long. The new formulation will be more resistant to heaving, which makes the road more durable. Indeed, said the minister, the new formulation could well add three to six years to the current six-year road life span. Some modification of the region's asphalt plants will be needed, said the Deputy of the City Council Sergey Mecetin. [this item is an edited version of the original]
Posted 14 October 2012; 4:44:13 PM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/Barents Observer, 11 October 2012) -- The wreck of the Soviet cruiser Murmansk will be completely gone by November. 14,000 tons of scrap metal have been removed in the unique operation on the coast of Finnmark. AF Decom, the company that won the NOK 328 million (€44.5 million) tender to remove the wreck, reports that the removal is going very smoothly after managing to resolve earlier problems with leakages in the jetties that have been built around the wreck. “There are still some parts left in the ground, but everything will be removed by the middle of November, before the winter storms set in,” AF Decom Director Eirik Wraal says to NRK. The sea bottom around the wreck has been drained using jetties and the vessel has been cut into pieces and removed. The whole operation is being filmed for a future documentary and you can watch the removal operation on-line here. The 211-meters-long cruiser ended its days in Sørøya in the rocks outside Sørvær on the coast of Finnmark in December 1994. The cruiser was being tugged southwards for scrapping when it tore away during a storm and has since been to a lot of nuisance to the local population. A decision to remove the wreck was made in August 2008, after debris from the cruiser delivered for recycling revealed that there were traces of a radioactive source, PCB and brominated flame retardants in the vessel.
Posted 14 October 2012; 4:31:12 PM. Permalink
(Radio Sweden, 8 October 2012) -- Arctic Sweden's northernmost city is moving east. The mining that has been the lifeblood of Kiruna town for over a hundred years has also undermined its buildings some are already sinking into the ground. Architects, from Sweden and abroad, have been competing to be the ones to create New Kiruna. To get the latest on the plans we talked to Katerina Nilsson, secretary of the jury deciding which plan to go with. [radio]
Posted 14 October 2012; 3:55:11 PM. Permalink
(Emily Schwing/KUAC - Fairbanks via Eye on the Arctic, 11 October 2012) -- The Arctic Village of Kivalina may run out of fresh water this winter. Governor Sean Parnell declared a disaster in the village last month after heavy rainfall flooded the Wulik River and washed away some of the city's surface water piping. By the time the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management had shipped a new high speed pump and pipe to the community, it was too late according to City Administrator, Janet Mitchell. Slush clogged the pipes and the crew gave up. It's not clear how much water made it into the tanks. Mitchell, who grew up in Kivalina, says residents have always tried to conserve water. But the majority of Kivalina's 436 residents don't have boats or snowmachines to access large quantities of fresh drinking water. So they use the local washeteria. It's unlikely to remain open through the winter.
Posted 12 October 2012; 3:19:17 PM. Permalink
(Voice of Russia, 12 October 2012) -- On Wednesday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attended a keel-laying ceremony of the diesel-powered icebreaker LK-25 in St. Petersburg. Industry experts say the keel-laying of the new generation icebreaker marks a new stage in Russia’s exploration of the Arctic region. The state-of-the-art diesel-powered icebreaker LK-25 of ice class Icebreaker 8 will replace the old icebreakers, which were built in the 1980s. With the capacity of 25 MW the new icebreaker will be capable of sailing the most difficult conditions of the Kara Sea, in any ice situation. The new ship laid at the Baltic shipbuilding plant of the United Shipbuilding Corporation will be completed in 2017. Currently, Russia is also building other new icebreakers. The ships called Moscow and St. Petersburg were laid down 6 years ago but their capacity is much smaller than that of the LK-25 ship. In terms of capacity the LK-25 project is a milestone. And the largest ever project in the history of Russia’s shipbuilding industry is scheduled for 2013. The LK-60 nuclear icebreaker with the capacity of 60 megawatt will cost almost 40 billion rubles (more than one billion dollars) This vessel will be capable of sailing in the northernmost and easternmost parts of the Arctic region. This means that Russia will be able to solve strategic tasks in any part of the Arctic Ocean. We hear from Igor Ostretsov, the deputy director for science of the All-Russia Research Center of Nuclear Machine-Building. "The Soviet Union was an undisputable leader in building of icebreakers. We always had the advantage in the Arctic region. Now those icebreakers are getting old and we are renewing the fleet. It is very important to secure Russia’s presence in the Arctic areas, which always belonged to us, now when many other countries are eyeing the Arctic region. An icebreaking fleet is the most important tool there." Russia’s neighbors on the Arctic region are continuing to dispute Moscow’s claims on the Arctic shelf, which rich reserves attract even non-Arctic states such as Japan and Malaysia. Russia is continuing to explore the area to define the shelf borders and to apply a new request to the UN. Alongside the renewal of the icebreaking fleet the construction of new research ships is underway. On Wednesday, a new scientific research ship Academic Tryoshnikov was made operational. The industry experts say that in terms of its icebreaking capabilities it is superior to the Academic Fyodorov research ship. With the new research ship of this class Russia will be able to win back the leading position in scientific explorations of the Arctic region, Medvedev said Wednesday.
Posted 12 October 2012; 2:50:55 PM. Permalink
(Mia Bennett/Eye on the Arctic via Alaska Dispatch, 7 May 2012) -- The Canadian Forces have just commenced one of their annual sovereignty exercises in the Arctic, called Operation Nunalivut. One-hundred fifty Canadian Forces personnel from the Navy, Air Force, Army, and Canadian Rangers are participating. This year, the exercises are taking place around Cornwallis Island and on the western portion of Devon Island in Nunavut. Sovereignty and search and rescue (SAR) training compose a large portion of the operations this year. Royal Canadian Navy divers dove under six feet of ice in Gascoyne Bay to simulate a medical rescue. Two Royal Canadian Air Force CC-138 Twin Otters also performed ski-landings to resupply a temporary camp in Viks Fiord. Another exercise helped Canada look into the dangerous past of the Arctic: sailors cut a hole into the ice with heated saws to submerge a remotely operated vehicle to survey the world's northernmost shipwreck, the HMS Breadalbane, which sank down into the murky depths in 1853. Participants are also testing new communications capabilities for Op Nunalivut. For the first time, rangers can communicate through a chat program that connects them both to headquarters in Resolute and Yellowknife, thousands of miles away in the Northwest Territories. ... Meanwhile, the U.S. is "behind the power curve regarding the Arctic" according to Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Bob Papp. The U.S. Naval War College's War Gaming Department recently carried out an operations game in which it found that the Navy is woefully unprepared and ill-equipped for activities in the Arctic. Without any heavy icebreakers, it must rely on other countries for that capability. Walter Berbrick, assistant research professor in the War Gaming Department, stated, "We have limited capability to sustain long-term operations in the Arctic due to inadequate icebreaking capability. The Navy finds itself entering a new realm as it relates to having to rely on other nations." Previously, the Navy mostly just had to rely on the Coast Guard, to whom it gave its last icebreaker, the Glacier, to the Coast Guard in 1966. That year, it decided to hand over all icebreaking operations.
Posted 8 May 2012; 10:52:50 PM. Permalink
(Anna Mehler Paperny/Globe and Mail, 4 May 2012) -- Canada is moving to wrest back control of a swiftly changing North – or at least get a better handle on what’s going on in its icy waters. Global warming and growing international interest in the melting Northwest Passage make it imperative, the federal government says in an online call for expressions of interest, to improve surveillance in territory Canada claims but knows little about. The research arm of the Department of National Defence is investing $10-million from now through 2015 in a remote-controlled satellite surveillance project in the Barrow Strait, a small slice of the Northwest Passage through which most vessels pass on their way westward along that route. The Northern Watch project was announced in 2007 and the first equipment set up the next year, only to be severely damaged by harsh weather conditions. Now, after several years of remediation and altering equipment to make it stand up better to Arctic conditions, Ottawa has put a call out for a company to build a system that researchers can control from Halifax and, eventually, set up to be entirely automated. It will send the signals to Defence Research and Development Canada's Atlantic section, which specializes in underwater photography. “Right now, we don’t have any actual presence in the Arctic, except for where we have people living,” said Gary Geling, Defence Research and Development Canada’s lead scientist on the project. “One of the things we really don’t have a good feel for right now is exactly where everything is. … This [new equipment] allows us to know who’s coming in.”
Posted 4 May 2012; 1:10:49 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 17 April 2012) -- Three fuel trucks broke through the ice on the Tuktoyaktuk–Aklavik ice road in the Northwest Territories Monday night. No fuel leaked from the trucks, which were full, and no one was hurt. The incident backed up traffic for hours, affecting dozens of people who were travelling from the Tuktoyaktuk Beluga Jamboree. Barbara Archie, an elder from Aklavik, was on the ice road behind the trucks. "The trucks fell through, so we all had to stay back and wait," she said. A secondary road had to be cleared to allow people to make it back to shore. Crews worked for most of the day Tuesday to remove the trucks, which were partially submerged in the Arctic waters. Officials with the Department of Transportation said it’s the first time in recent memory that this many trucks have gone through the ice at once. The department is now investigating.
Posted 17 April 2012; 11:59:32 PM. Permalink
(CBC News via Eye on the Arctic, 5 April 2012) -- The Mackenzie Valley pipeline, an energy megaproject in Canada's North that has been proposed and debated for decades, has been put on hold again. The 1,196-kilometre line would have transported natural gas from the Beaufort Sea to North American markets. The partners behind the proposed $16.2 billion projected halted development because of low prices for natural gas. ConocoPhillips said Thursday that the five partners in the energy development consortium have suspended funding for the project, which would have transported up to 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day. The partners include an aboriginal group funded by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp, Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Imperial Oil Ltd., also of Calgary. ConocoPhillips said the decision was made in the first quarter of this year. "The co-venturers elected to suspend funding of the project due to a continued decline in market conditions and the lack of acceptable commercial terms," it said in a release. The announcement follows a decision less than a week ago by ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, BP and TransCanada, to work toward developing natural gas reserves on Alaska's North Slope, which would be assessed as an alternative to a natural gas pipeline through Alberta. The state of Alaska has offered up to $500 million in incentives to build a pipeline there. The National Energy Board approved the Mackenzie Valley project in December 2010. The price of natural gas, already at a 10-year low, fell further Thursday after the U.S. government reported a surprisingly large increase in supply. Gas for May delivery fell four cents to $2.11 per thousand cubic feet in New York at midday. The government said supplies expanded last week to a level that's 60.5 per cent higher than the five-year average.
Posted 7 April 2012; 1:17:22 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 5 April 2012) -- Russia intends to spend around 1.3 trillion rubles ($44 billion) on economic and social projects in the Arctic until 2020, the Russian minister for regional development, Viktor Basargin, said in an interview with the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta published on Thursday. The state budget is expected to provide some 503 billion rubles ($17 billion) to create new transportation corridors in the Arctic, develop new hydrocarbon deposits and social infrastructure, improve living standards of local population, maintain the environment and culture of indigenous peoples, the minister said. Another 724 billion rubles ($24.5 billion) is planned to be taken from regional budgets, he said. Businesses are expected to provide another 80 billion rubles ($2.7 billion). The figures are yet to be confirmed. Arctic territories, seen as the key to huge untapped natural resources, have increasingly been at the center of mounting disputes between the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, and Denmark in recent years as rising temperatures lead to a reduction in sea ice, providing access to lucrative offshore oil and gas deposits. Russia is planning to deploy a combined-arms force by 2020 to guard its political and economic interests in the Arctic.
Posted 7 April 2012; 10:37:00 AM. Permalink
(Voice of Russia, 28 March 2012) -- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has endorsed projects for a permafrost seedbank in Yakutia and research into the impact of global climate change on Arctic nature in that part of Siberia. Developed by local specialists and presented at the UNESCO Paris headquarters earlier this week, the projects will be part of the UNESCO-sponsored global warming assessment monitoring. Here is what Chairman of Yakutia’s Innovative Policy Committee Dmitry Safonov told reporters: "The UNESCO is preparing a large-scale program it plans to launch in 2013. It will focus on climate change and related scientific aspects such as the degradation of permafrost, the productivity of biosystems and the environmental and even humanitarian components, in other words, the effects of climate change on society, on people inhabiting certain territories." The Arctic is a region where climate change has been the most dramatic, which can best be seen in Yakutia. Degrading permafrost causes a rapid decrease of landmass. A research station will be built on the island of Samoilovsky in the Lena delta, where complex studies in various fields will be carried out, said Dmitry Safonov: "These include natural processes, nature management in the Arctic and the dynamics of the coastal and deep-sea permafrost in the eastern Arctic. In the geological bloc, it’s seismotectonics and paleogeography of Arctic Siberia. And there will also be a humanitarian bloc studying of the cultural and historical heritage. The Arctic boasts many interesting sites telling of famous explorers and expeditions of the great Arctic exploration era." Unlike most of the existing world seedbanks, the future cryo-repository in Yakut permafrost won’t need refrigerators to maintain temperatures at the required level, nor will it need electricity to power the equipment. Even compared to the European Union cryo-repository built on Spitsbergen in natural conditions, it will have significant advantages, says Professor of the Novosibirsk Institute of Cytology and Genetics Nikolai Goncharov. "If temperatures rise 5 degrees, the ice on Spitsbergen will melt and the EU cryo-repository will have to use refrigerators. For this to happen in Yakutia, a 20 degree warming is needed. The thick layer of permafrost is an eternal and ecologically clean system resistant to cataclysms."
Posted 2 April 2012; 4:08:25 PM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/BarentsObserver, 27 March 2012) -- Norway has started preparations for a new coal mine on the Arctic Arcipelago of Svalbard. This week the Norwegian contractor Veidekke started construction of a three kilometer long road to Mount Lunckefjell across the Martha glacier. “The biggest challenge is to get all the machinery and equipment transported from Svea across the glaciers”, says Jostein Nordstrøm in Veidekke Contractors to Svalbardposten. His company has to clear tons of snow and ice away before they can start building a new road through the frozen glacial soil. The road is expected to be ready in August, and then the actual work on digging the new mine can start. Lunckefjell contains some 8.2 million tons of sales coal according to the mining company Store Norske. The company regards exploitation of the deposit as a natural continuation of the current mining operations in Svea Nord. Costs connected to opening of the new mine are estimated to be some NOK 1 billion. Norway’s current coal mine in Svea Nord will run out of resources within the next few years. The state-owned company Store Norske in September 2010 adopted a business plan for opening a new coal mine in Lunckefjell, just north of the current mine. The Norwegian Government gave green light for the plans in December 2011, after the Ministry of Environment came to the conclusion that the new coal mine can be opened without coming into contradiction with the environmental laws and regulations on Svalbard. A dilemma for the new mine in Lunckefjell is that the mine, although underground, will slightly be in the vicinity of the Nordenskiöld Land national park.
Posted 2 April 2012; 3:07:25 PM. Permalink
(Atle Staalesen/BarentsObserver, 30 March 2012) --A bill regulating shipping on the increasingly popular Northern Sea Route might be adopted this spring. Talking at a press conference organized by RIA Novosti this week, a high-ranking representative of the Russian Ministry of Transport said that the new law will regulate interaction between stakeholders and organize issues of communication. “We intend to introduce special shipping regulations for the Northern Sea Route", Vitaly Klyuev said. He maintained that the bill might be adopted by the State Duma in the course of spring 2012. A part of the bill is the establishment of a new Northern Sea Route administration. According to Mr. Klyuev, the Ministry is also starting to upgrade all navigation maps for the route. By year 2015-2016 there will be no more “white spots” on the map, he confirmed at the press conference. He also said that the responsibility for the maps will be handed over from the Ministry of Defence to a non-military structure. The new maps will display depths along the route and consequently improve safety along the route, the ministry official underlined. According to international law, countries can regulate shipping only based on special environmental requirements, as well as in areas, which are covered by ice for more than six months of the year, RIA Novosti reports. Russia has already restricted foreign vessels’ access to several areas along the route, among them in the Kara Gate, the straits connecting the Barents and Kara Seas.
Posted 2 April 2012; 2:44:27 PM. Permalink
(News release via MarineLink.com, 1 April 2012) -- Russia [is] to commission Northern Sea Route hydrographic surveys to identify safe-water routes for large ships. Updated charts of the Northern Sea Route without the 'white spots' will be created in 2015-2016, in addition, the Ministry of Transport is planning to organize this year's transfer of jurisdiction from the Ministry of Defence to FSUE 'Hydrographic Enterprise' or in its own subordinate structure, said the deputy director of the Department of State Policy for Maritime and River Transport of Russia, Vitaly Klyuev. "We will increase the hydrographic work in the Arctic to the year 2015-2016 to get a real picture of the depths for safe navigation," he said at a news conference in RIA Novosti, devoted to the preparation of the Russian exposition at the World exhibition "Expo-2012" to be held from May to August in South Korea. According to Klyuyev, surveying the work in the Arctic will be done in conjunction with SCF and Rosatomflot. 'White spots' (areas without depth data) on the charts will not be covered throughout the whole region, but survey work will be concentrated on the Northern Sea Route in the interests of the safe navigation of ship traffic. According to Director of Non-Profit Partnership for the Coordination of Northern Sea Route Vladimir Mickle, over the past 20 years, soundings in the Arctic have been limited because of a reduction in the hydrographic budget. However, in 2011 funding was restored, and for the first time it was sufficient enough for seven survey ships to work on the route.
Posted 2 April 2012; 2:10:20 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 22 March 2012) -- The federal government has quietly changed its plans for the Nanisivik Naval Facility on north Baffin Island. The proposed facility at a defunct mine near Arctic Bay, Nunavut, will be much smaller than first planned. The Department of National Defence spelled out the changes in a recent letter to the Nunavut Impact Review Board. Prime Minister Stephen Harper travelled to Arctic Bay in 2007 to announce plans for the facility. There were to be major upgrades to the jetty, offices and accommodations, and the capacity to store two years worth of fuel. Now work on the jetty has been postponed indefinitely, fuel storage capacity has been slashed, and the only building will be an unheated storage unit. A spokesperson for Defence Minister Peter MacKay would not comment on the changes saying only that the intent remains for a docking and refuelling station at Nanisivik. "The optimistic way of looking at it is this is just a slowing down,” said Rob Huebert, an Arctic defence analyst at the University of Calgary, “The more negative view of course is that this is the way often governments will start to kill a project."
Posted 23 March 2012; 10:37:49 AM. Permalink
(RÚV via IceNews, 20 March 2012) -- A new cement substitute made from volcanic ash could potentially see cement become obsolete in Iceland. This is the hope of a research team working to make a domestic concrete mix based around volcanic ash. The so-called concrete division of the Icelandic Innovation Centres is behind the project aimed at making a marketable and economical product which could largely see cement become unnecessary. According to project manager Sunna Ó. Wallevik, cement-free concrete is much more environmentally friendly than traditional concrete because its production does not produce carbon dioxide. Cement production is a very big producer of the greenhouse gas. “The goal of the project is really to develop an Icelandic version of environmentally-friendly concrete made from certain geographical polymers instead of normal cement.” the ash contains both aluminium and silica. Sunna says that the ash for the concrete has been collected from the foot of Eyjafjallajökull and that although the project is in full swing, it could still be two to three years before the final product is released onto the market, RÚV reports. “The first trials have been very successful and we have achieved a very good mix and good results; so we are very positive that we can finish this project.”
Posted 21 March 2012; 10:55:01 AM. Permalink
(Defence Professionals, 19 March 2012) -- The Arctic region is poised for greater regional significance as polar ice retreats in coming decades. Ship traffic likely will increase during summer months, and commercial activity focused on the sea floor is expected to grow. The Arctic is largely isolated, vast and environmentally extreme. Remote sensing may offer affordable advantages over traditional methods of monitoring the region—aircraft, satellites or manned ships and submarines—due to the great distances in the Arctic. To enable future capability for regional situational awareness and maritime security, DARPA’s Assured Arctic Awareness (AAA) program plans to develop new technologies to monitor the Arctic both above and below the ice, providing year-round situational awareness without the need for forward-basing or human presence. AAA seeks advances in sensor systems and related technologies—such as station-keeping capabilities—that are rugged enough to withstand Arctic conditions, economical to operate and environmentally responsible with minimal impact. DARPA seeks proposals that specifically take the perceived negatives of the harsh polar environment and turn them into positives for a suite of unique Arctic capabilities. “We’re looking for creative ideas for compelling component technologies and a vision for applying them to monitor the region—whether proposers have expertise in the Arctic or not,” said Andy Coon, DARPA program manager.
Posted 20 March 2012; 12:04:28 AM. Permalink
(Wildlife Conservation Society press release ᔥ redOrbit, 19 March 2012) -- A rapid increase in shipping in the formerly ice-choked waterways of the Arctic poses a significant increase in risk to the region’s marine mammals and the local communities that rely on them for food security and cultural identity, according to an Alaska Native groups and the Wildlife Conservation Society who convened at a recent workshop. The workshop—which ran from March 12-14—examined the potential impacts to the region’s wildlife and highlighted priorities for future management of shipping in the region. The meeting included participants from the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, Eskimo Walrus Commission, Alaska Beluga Whale Committee, Ice Seal Committee, Indigenous People’s Council for Marine Mammals, and the Inuit Circumpolar Council. Other participants included the University of Alaska, government agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard, Arctic Research Commission, and the Marine Mammal Commission, and regional Alaska Native groups such as Kawerak Inc., North Slope Borough, Northwest Alaska Borough, and Association of Village Council Presidents. At issue is the effect of climate change on Arctic waters, which over the last few decades have become increasingly ice-free during the summer and fall. The lengthening of the open-water season has led to new industrial developments, including oil and gas activities and a rising number of large maritime vessels transiting either the Northern Sea Route over the Russian Arctic from Europe, or the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic from the Atlantic. Whichever route is being used, the only gateway to the Pacific is through the Bering Strait—an important migratory pathway for marine mammals.
Posted 19 March 2012; 10:27:08 PM. Permalink
(Nordic Council News, 15 March 2012) -- Whenever an accident occurs in Arctic waters, it is not immediately clear which country is responsible for the rescue operation. The Nordic Council theme meeting next week will urge the finance ministers to come up with a funding model. Heavier cruise-ship traffic around Greenland is just one reason why better emergency services are needed in the North Atlantic. The Council has called for joint Nordic funding in the past, but so far to no avail. Now, it intends to recommend that the finance ministers set up a working group to look at potential solutions. The theme Session in Reykjavik will also discuss the safety aspects of extracting oil and natural gas in the Arctic Region. The Council wants to take the next step, and progress from the current agreement about cleaning up after environmental incidents to a new agreement that regulates the mining industry and minimises the risk of accidents.
Posted 18 March 2012; 12:14:17 AM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/Barents Observer, 21 February 2012) -- To ensure safety at sea in the vulnerable fjords of Svalbard Norway is establishing a system for compulsory pilotage on the Arctic Archipelago. Compulsory pilotage in the fjords of Svalbard is an issue that has been discussed for many years. Many of the fjords on Svalbard are quite dangerous with strong torrents and narrow fairways. The decree on pilotage will be put into force gradually. Already this summer, vessels going to the Svea coal mine will need to have a pilot onboard. From 2013 all passenger vessels with a length of 150 meters or more, which means all larger cruise vessels, will need a pilot when going into one of the fjords on Svalbard. Compulsory pilotage will come fully into force from the sailing season of 2014. All boats longer than 70 meters and all passenger vessels longer than 24 meters will then need to have a pilot when entering one of the fjords. Smaller boats used for tourist cruises and day trips can apply for exemption from the compulsory pilotage if the navigator on board has a Pilot Exemption Certificate, Svalbardposten writes.
Posted 27 February 2012; 11:10:28 PM. Permalink
(The Financial, 9 February 2012) -- The EBRD will provide up to 3 billion roubles (€75 million) to modernise and increase the energy efficiency of district heating systems in a permafrost area of Far East Russia where the heating season lasts 10 months a year and winter temperatures drop to -50 degrees centigrade for extended periods. According to The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the proceeds of the Bank’s 16-year loan will fund a capital investment programme in a number of northern settlements in the Republic of Sakha, also known as Yakutia. This vast territory in Eastern Siberia is almost as big as India but has a population of less than one million. The cost of heating services per square metre in Yakutia is the highest in Russia. Fuel and transport account for 75 per cent of such operational costs. There is, therefore, a large potential for savings, particularly if coal and gas can substitute expensive sea-borne fuel supplies. The loan will finance the replacement of both heat-generating facilities and heat-distribution systems in the ports of Tiksi and Cherskyi. ... The two ports targeted by this loan provide a lifeline for remote inland communities, storing supplies that are shipped by sea during the summer for onward transportation into the interior along frozen roads once winter sets in. Due to the permafrost, no roads exist for the rest of the year.
Posted 9 February 2012; 3:49:20 PM. Permalink
(Helsingen Sanomat, 15 December 2011) -- A proposed rail link from Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland to Kirkenes in the north of Norway has taken centre stage in discussions on upgrading the transport network in the Arctic region. The prospect of less ice in the Arctic Ocean through global warming means that the ocean could become more navigable. This would make it possible to open the Northeast Passage along the northern coast of Russia to more shipping. The head of the project, Nenrik Falck of the Norwegian Tschudi shipping line, says that 34 vessels have already sailed through the passage this year. In 2010 only four ships made it through. Kirkenes Harbour, which is owned by Tschudi, is ready to invest in an expanded seaport, but wants the Norwegian government to participate in the project. Mikko Niini, CEO of Aker Arctic Technology, says that Russia, which has previously been less than enthusiastic about the project, has begun to understand the commercial potential of the Northeast Passage. China is also making preparations for an Arctic fleet. By nearly halving the travel time from Western Europe to the Far East, the opening of the passage could bring considerable savings in the transport of ore from mines in Finnish Lapland. The first phase of the rail project from Rovaniemi to Sodankylä, would be based on the needs of the mining industry. The Keivitsa nickel mine will start operations next year, and the mining company Anglo American hopes to open the Sakatti mine in ten years. Estimates of the economic feasibility of the project are contradictory. The Finnish rail company VR does not expect that such a rail link would be profitable.
Posted 2 February 2012; 6:19:37 PM. Permalink
(Margaret Munro/Postmedia News, 29 January 2012) -- The icebreaker at the heart of Canada's premier Arctic science program has been pulled from service, leaving researchers scrambling to find other ships to take them to the North. The bright red Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen has become a familiar sight cruising the Arctic. It is a floating home and laboratory for researchers and students studying everything from Inuit health to the transformation underway in the Arctic environment. The ship is also to be featured on Canada's new $50 bill. But it is now docked in Trois-Rivieres, Que., with four of its six engines "non-operational,'' and in need of repairs expected to cost several million dollars and take at least a year. "Numerous repair scenarios are now being considered, but in all cases, the ship will be non-operational until late 2012 or early 2013,'' Martin Fortier, executive director of ArcticNet, said in a memo recently sent to scientists who planned to use the ship this year. "This leaves us with no other option than to cancel the 2012 Amundsen expedition altogether, obviously a major blow to the 2012 ArcticNet ocean program and associated research projects,'' it says. ArcticNet, based at Laval University, co-ordinates and funds Arctic work undertaken by researchers across Canada. Keith Levesque, ArcticNet's co-ordinator for research on the Amundsen, says the engine problems "came out of the blue.'' A routine coast guard inspection in December uncovered cracks in four of the ship's six engine blocks, he said in an interview. Transport Canada inspectors took a look and in January, "deemed that the ship could not sail this summer, or even this winter, and that the engines need to be replaced as soon as possible.'' Nathalie Letendre, a media officer with the Coast Guard, says the Amundsen will not even been used to clear ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which it usually does in the winter months. It is not know how expensive or extensive the repairs job will be, she said, but the ship is expected to be out of action for the year. The cancellation of the 2012 Amundsen expedition comes just months after ArcticNet researchers won a $67.3-million infusion from the federal government to step up northern research. "We are still in shock,'' says John Hughes Clarke, at the University of New Brunswick, who leads an ArcticNet project mapping the seabed.
Posted 29 January 2012; 11:12:36 PM. Permalink
(Vladivostok Air press release, 4 January 2012) -- Vladivostok Air is proud to announce the resumption of seasonal service between Anchorage, Alaska, and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia, this coming summer. This weekly service will run from July 12 to September 13, 2012, with departures on Thursdays. Flights arrive in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the morning, allowing for fishermen to get to their rivers the day of arrival and for transit travelers to make connections to other Russian cities. See full details on our Kamchatka page. Commencing late February, 2012, tickets for these flights will go on sale via all major ticketing reservations systems, and may be booked through any quality travel agent. Vladivostok Air is also working with travel partner Kamchatintour in Russia and US travel agents to create exciting travel packages to Kamchatka. Business travel services will also be offered. FAM trips for North American trip operators are also being coordinated. Details will be available soon.
Posted 26 January 2012; 6:27:09 PM. Permalink
(Matthew Smith/KNOM - Nome, 23 January 2012 ) -- The tanker Renda and the Coast Guard cutter Healy are 115 miles south-southwest of Nome after beginning their return journey through the ice two days ago. Ice conditions have been easier when compared to their initial trip north, but the ships are not yet halfway: they still have more than 300 miles of ice to go. Kathleen Cole, the Sea Ice Program Leader with the National Weather Service, says the ice has continued to expand in the days since the ships first traveled through it: the ice grew by 60 miles during their weeklong anchor in Nome, and could grow by another 60 to 90 miles over the next ten days. Guiding the Renda through the ice is an experienced Russian captain who says this kind of fuel delivery mission is no big deal in his home country.
Posted 26 January 2012; 6:24:36 PM. Permalink
(Barents Nova, 23 January 2012) -- Supply tenders are announced for the Russian Optical Trans Arctic Submarine Cable System (ROTACS) telecommunication project intended to connect Europe and Asia via Murmansk. ROTACS will connect Europe and Asia via the shortest possible geographical route across the Arctic, opening a new chapter in the history of global submarine telecommunications, says Polarnet, the project operator. At the first stage of the project implementation, 6 fibre pairs of an undersea 17,000 km-long cable system will link England, Japan, China and Russia through cable stations in the cities of Bude (England), Tokyo (Japan), and Russia's Murmansk, Vladivostok, and Anadyr. The estimated cost of this phase will be $860 million. At the second stage, for the price of $500 million there will be installed cable branches to connect the undersea-based trunk line with Russian telecom providers based on the shore. Stage 3 will need other $500 million to install an onshore line closing the circle of cables through the central part of Russia. The last stage will be backed up by Rosneft. Overall costs come up to $2 billion. ROTACS is the first system to be built along the trans-Arctic geographic route. In mid-October 2011, the Russian Governmental Commission for Federal Communications and Information Technology granted its approval of the project. The ROTACS project will start in Q2 this year and is optimistically scheduled to finish in 2014. Meanwhile, a Canadian Arctic Fibre Inc., is developing a 15,600 km submarine cable which is to provide a low latency route between Northern China and Japan to Northern Europe through Canada 's North West Passage.
Posted 24 January 2012; 12:54:07 PM. Permalink
(Jill Burke/Alaska Dispatch via Eye on the Arctic, 20 January 2012) -- Just before 6 a.m. on Thursday, the last drops of fuel flowed through two hoses stretching 700 yards from ship to shore in Nome, Alaska. It took more than 60 hours of continuous pumping to transfer an estimated 1.3 million gallons of fuel from a Russian fuel tanker to the Alaska fuel buyer's storage tanks. Crews continue working to clear about 7,000 gallons that remains in the hoses. During the day Thursday, crews were also planning to detach the hoses and clear the safety zone that had been established around the ships and begin preparations for a Friday departure back through 395 miles of Bering Sea pack ice, said Stacey Smith, project manager with Vitus Marine, which hired the Renda to bring the fuel to Nome. The U.S. Coast Guard's ice-breaking cutter Healy will break itself and the Renda free of their parking spots outside Nome's harbor. Then, just as it did for the trip to Nome, the Healy will lead the convoy south in search of open water. According to the Coast Guard, the ships are aiming for a Friday "bon voyage!" Renda's crew has been at sea, busting through ice, for nine months. Healy's crew has been under way for eight. After it leaves the Bering Sea ice pack, Healy will return to Seattle, her home port. "I am extremely proud of the way our partners and the marine industry worked as a collaborative team along with the Coast Guard to get the needed fuel to the residents of Nome." Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, Coast Guard District 17 commander, said in a prepared statement Thursday.
Posted 23 January 2012; 10:47:53 PM. Permalink
(Deborah Zabarenko/Reuters, 23 January 2012) -- The strongest geomagnetic storm in more than six years was forecast to hit Earth's magnetic field on Tuesday, and it could affect airline routes, power grids and satellites, the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center said. A coronal mass ejection — a big chunk of the Sun's atmosphere — was hurled toward Earth on Sunday, driving energized solar particles at about 5 million miles an hour (2,000 km per second), about five times faster than solar particles normally travel, the center's Terry Onsager said. "When it hits us, it's like a big battering ram that pushes into Earth's magnetic field," Onsager said from Boulder, Colorado. "That energy causes Earth's magnetic field to fluctuate." This energy can interfere with high frequency radio communications used by airlines to navigate close to the North Pole in flights between North America, Europe and Asia, so some routes may need to be shifted, Onsager said. It could also affect power grids and satellite operations, the center said in a statement. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station may be advised to shield themselves in specific parts of the spacecraft to avoid a heightened dose of solar radiation, Onsager said. The space weather center said the geomagnetic storm's intensity would probably be moderate or strong, levels two and three on a five-level scale, five being the most extreme.
Posted 23 January 2012; 10:41:28 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 23 January 2012) -- A Canadian company is planning to build a fibre optic line which could bring significantly faster internet speeds to the eastern Arctic. Ontario-based Arctic Fibre Inc. wants to run 15,868 kilometres of the cable under water. It would stretch from northern Asia, under the Pacific Ocean, through the Northwest Passage and across the Atlantic to Europe. It would also provide high speed internet to some northern communities. The proposed network would include connections to Tuktoyaktuk in the N.W.T., and Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Taloyoak, Igloolik, Hall Beach, Cape Dorset and Iqaluit in Nunavut. "And that will create so many different opportunities for people, just in terms of how they conduct their affairs," Arctic Fibre president Doug Cunningham told CBC News. "Within the cable itself, we'll have four fibre pairs. And those four fibre pairs will be capable of conducting 12.8 terabits, which is like moving 150 million simultaneous phone calls or slightly more than 1.2 million high definition movies at the same time. It's a lot of capacity," he said. Cunningham estimates the entire project will cost about $640 million, 40 per cent of which he said would be spent in Canadian waters. "The reason it becomes economic is because we can apportion part of that Canadian rate base or investment to the international carriers. And that's what gets it going; it's a combination of the international demand, along with having satellite displacement in Nunavut." The company is planning construction on the first phase of the project, a line between Newfoundland and Iqaluit, in the fall of 2013.
Posted 23 January 2012; 10:14:10 PM. Permalink
(Mary Pemberton/Anchorage Daily News, 10 January 2012) -- Shifting ice in the Bering Sea is dramatically slowing a Russian tanker's mission to deliver fuel to the iced-in community of Nome. A Coast Guard spokesman said Monday that an icebreaker and a fuel tanker are encountering "some really dynamic ice" that is slowing the mission and sometimes forcing both vessels to come to a complete stop. But, "As long as we're making progress, we're going to Nome," said Anchorage Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley. A worst case scenario would be that the ice becomes too much for any progress. But Mosley doubts that would be the case since the Coast Guard cutter Healy has the ability to make it all the way to Nome. Jason Evans, chairman of Sitnasuak Native Corp., the company arranging for the fuel delivery by Russian tanker, had no qualms Monday. "I think we are getting to Nome," he said, adding he will be there for the arrival. Nome is in need of diesel and unleaded gasoline after a fall fuel delivery by barge was delayed by a storm that swept western Alaska. By the time the weather had improved, Nome was iced-in and a barge delivery was impossible. ... The Healy, an icebreaker designed to move through ice several feet thick, is leading the 370-foot Renda, a Russian tanker loaded with 1.3 million gallons of petroleum products. The plan was for the two ships to deliver fuel to Nome on Monday, but because of the icy conditions, that arrival date is off. Coast Guard officials are not saying when they expect the vessels to arrive, but it could be later this week. "The dynamics of things make it a pretty intense transit," Cmdr. Greg Tlapa, the executive officer of the Healy, told The Associated Press by satellite phone Monday afternoon as the icebreaker was about 111 miles south-southwest of Nome. ... The ships are in constant communication, with the Healy relaying over VHF radio any speed or propulsion changes and what they are seeing ahead. There's an active duty Coast Guardsman on the Healy who is fluent in Russian, Tlapa said. There's an Alaska marine pilot on board the Renda, and the vessel agent speaks English. "It's slow and steady, but we're making good progress," Tlapa said.
Posted 12 January 2012; 10:15:03 AM. Permalink
ANCHORAGE, Alaska, January 6, 2012 (ENS) - This weekend, on its way to deliver more than a million gallons of emergency fuel to the town of Nome, Alaska, the Russian tanker Renda will move through an area used by wintering spectacled eiders, a federally threatened sea duck. To protect the ducks and their habitat, resource managers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and navigators from the U.S. Coast Guard are using satellite telemetry information from the U.S. Geological Survey to plot a route for the tanker that minimizes its impact. "Protecting America's fish and wildlife resources is a shared responsibility. It is satisfying to see agencies working together to protect threatened and endangered species, while meeting the needs of our communities," said Ellen Lance, the Endangered Species Branch chief for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Alaska Region. The arctic nesting sea ducks are now wintering south of St. Lawrence Island in the northern Bering Sea, where sea ice and abundant prey make their winter survival possible. But in Nome, a fuel shortage is creating an emergency. Fuel delivery to the town of 3,600, located on the edge of the Bering Sea on the southwest side of the Seward Peninsula, was delayed by what AccuWeather's Vickie Frantz calls the "snowicane" conditions that struck during the first week of November. A fuel barge carrying 1.6 million gallons of fuel was en route to Nome when the storm hit. The barge was delayed and was unable to reach the town before winter sea ice closed in. Nome is now surrounded by foot-thick ice. In early December, the Sitnasuak Native Corporation of Nome signed a contract with the Alaska company Vitus Marine to deliver more than a million gallons of diesel fuel and 400,000 gallons of gasoline to Nome via a double-hulled Ice Classed Russian tanker. The vessel is certified to travel through four feet of ice and recently traveled through five feet of ice for extended distances while delivering fuel to communities in the Russian Far East.
Posted 8 January 2012; 8:00:50 PM. Permalink
(AP via Anchorage Daily News, 7 January 2012) -- A Russian tanker carrying much-needed fuel for iced-in Nome was about 190 miles from its destination late Saturday afternoon and making slow but steady progress, a company official said. The city of about 3,500 people on the northwest Alaska coastline didn't get its last pre-winter fuel delivery because of a massive storm and could run out of crucial supplies before spring without the delivery. The 370-foot tanker was carrying more than 1.3 million gallons of fuel and was being shepherded through hundreds of miles of sea ice by the U.S. Coast Guard's only icebreaker. "They're navigating through ice right now, taking a direct route for now," said Jason Evans, the CEO of Sitnasuak Native Corp., one of the companies undertaking the delivery. "They considered going through patches where there might be thinner ice, but determined that would have taken them on a longer route." Evans estimated the ship traveled another 20 or 30 miles after a Saturday morning report. The ship is scheduled to arrive late Monday or perhaps Tuesday. If the mission is successful, it will be the first time fuel has been delivered by sea to a Western Alaska community in winter. The Russian tanker came upon ice about a foot thick very early Friday near Nunivak Island in the eastern Bering Sea, the Coast Guard said. The tanker is following the Healy, the Coast Guard's only functioning icebreaker -- a ship of special design with a reinforced hull made to move through ice. "It's going basically as planned," Evans said.
Posted 8 January 2012; 2:01:53 PM. Permalink
(Alison Weisburger/The Arctic Institute Center for Circumpolar Policy Studies, 6 January 2012) -- Anyone following Alaskan news in the past few weeks has undoubtedly heard about the saga of the Russian fuel tanker Renda and its journey to deliver fuel to ice-bound Nome. For those who are not up to date on the story, it began back in November when a massive storm prevented Nome from receiving its last barge delivery of home heating fuel, diesel and gasoline for the winter. By the time the weather calmed down, Nome was already iced-in and it was confirmed that there would be no final fall delivery. At that time, it looked certain that the community would run out of fuel in the spring. The only proven method to deliver fuel to Western Alaska in the winter is with aircraft hauling the fuel one airplane load at a time, consuming a vast amount of time and money. In response to the impending crisis, Sitnasuak Native Corporation, the native village corporation of Nome, was able to negotiate a deal with Vitus Marine LLC, an Alaskan-based shipping company, to secure the double hulled Russian tanker Renda to pick up and deliver the fuel. This will be the first-ever winter fuel delivery from the water in Western Alaska. The tanker will be accompanied by a U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaker, the Healy. After traveling around 250 miles a day from a diesel fuel pickup in South Korea, then stopping in Dutch Harbor, Alaska to collect gasoline, the Renda is now on its way to Nome with the cutter Healy. Although the fuel delivery mission is not yet complete, there are already several lessons to take away from this incident about the realities of the Arctic environment, the necessity for advanced Arctic shipping capabilities, and the importance of multi-level cooperation. First, the storm in November that prevented a routine barge delivery to Nome serves as a reminder that the Arctic environment continues to be not only harsh, but also extremely volatile. ... First, the storm in November that prevented a routine barge delivery to Nome serves as a reminder that the Arctic environment continues to be not only harsh, but also extremely volatile. ... Perhaps the most important lesson from this story, although subtle, is the successful cooperation that occurred between private and public entities, internationally, and intergovernmentally, that enabled the mission to go forward. ... If the Renda reaches Nome and delivers the fuel successfully, as is planned by late Sunday or early Monday, it will be a cause for celebration. Not only is this delivery critical for the community of Nome, but it also marks an historic accomplishment of winter shipping in Alaska. However, it should also serve as a time of reflection on the lessons that can be taken away from the mission and a reminder of what factors need to be taken into consideration in the future as activities in the Arctic region intensify.
Posted 8 January 2012; 1:33:36 PM. Permalink
(Mary Pemberton/Anchorage Daily News, 1 January 2012) -- A Russian tanker's mission to deliver petroleum products to an iced-in Alaska city cleared a large hurdle when a waiver was granted allowing the loading of hundreds of thousands of gallons of gasoline at a port in the Aleutian Islands. The 370-foot tanker is due to arrive in the fishing port of Dutch Harbor at 6 p.m. Monday, the Coast Guard said Sunday. The waiver of the federal Jones Act granted Friday was crucial to the tanker completing its mission of delivering petroleum products to Nome, a city of about 3,500 residents on Alaska's western coastline. A huge storm this fall delayed delivery by barge and by the time the weather had improved Nome was iced-in. There are a variety of petroleum products on hand in Nome, but it doesn't have enough gasoline and diesel fuel to last until spring. The
Posted 2 January 2012; 1:16:03 PM. Permalink
(David Pugliese/Postmedia News, 27 December 2011) -- The Royal Canadian Air Force has looked at a major expansion at Resolute Bay, Nunavut, as it considers transforming it into a key base for Arctic operations, according to documents obtained by Postmedia. The construction of a 3,000-metre paved runway, hangars, fuel installations and other infrastructure has been proposed as part of an effort to support government and military operations in the North. Resolute Bay in Nunavut would be able to provide a logistics site for search-and-rescue operations as well as a base for strategic refuelling aircraft, according to the briefing from the Arctic Management Office at 1 Canadian Air Division, the air force's Winnipeg-based command and control division. The briefing was presented in June 2010 and recently released by the Defence Department under the Access to Information law. The long paved runway would allow fighter aircraft to operate from the site, with the suggestion in the presentation that could include NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command) jets. Resolute Bay now has a 1,981-metre gravel runway, according to information provided for pilots by the federal government. Resolute Bay should be considered for expansion to become a main operating base because it is "the geostrategic centre to the Arctic and (Northwest) Passage" and is an "existing regional supply hub with a permanent population/sea access," according to the briefing. It would be seen as a "key Arctic regional development and sovereignty centrepiece."
Posted 31 December 2011; 2:09:08 PM. Permalink
(Michael Byers/Toronto Star, 28 December 2011) -- NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA - Arctic. There is no likelihood of Arctic states going to war.” The Russian foreign ministry’s representative in Siberia smiles as he quotes the Canadian Prime Minister, as reported in a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. Although Stephen Harper never expected that his conversation with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen would be made public, the analysis was entirely correct. Here in Novosibirsk (pop. 1.5 million), people are more interested in trade and investment opportunities than geopolitical conspiracies. ... Siberia is larger than Canada and its resource industry more developed, in part a legacy of the Stalinist era drive for self-sufficiency. Fully 20 per cent of Russia’s GDP comes from this vast, sparsely populated territory. ... Russia also has massive deposits of oil and gas, both onshore and offshore. Earlier this year, Russia and Norway settled the Arctic’s largest sovereignty dispute — by dividing a contested portion of the Barents Sea exactly in half. ... Unlocking Russia’s Arctic treasure chest will require new transportation routes. Some Siberian officials envisage a railway to the Bering Strait and beyond through a tunnel to North America. It’s easy to dismiss the plan as unrealistic, until you remember that the Trans-Siberian Railway connecting Europe to China and the Pacific was once also only a dream. ... Russia is intent on turning the Northern Sea Route into a commercially viable alternative to the Strait of Malacca and the Suez Canal. There is just one fly in the ointment: the United States, which opposes Russia’s claim that key parts of the Northern Sea Route constitute Russian internal waters. Significantly, the Russian legal position is identical to that taken by Canada with respect to the Northwest Passage, where the only country that opposes Canada’s internal waters claim is, once again, the United States. During a conference in Novosibirsk, I explain that the Soviet Union had expressed support for Canada’s legal position when the U.S. sent an icebreaker through the Northwest Passage in 1985. A Russian professor asks the logical question: “Did Canada ever support the Soviet Union’s Northern Sea Route claim?” I reply that, although mutual recognition would have strengthened both countries’ legal positions, Canada could never have supported the Soviets in a Cold War dispute with the United States. The professor looks at me quizzically: “But the Cold War is over, nyet? Russia, after all, is about to join the WTO.”
Posted 31 December 2011; 1:43:41 PM. Permalink
(IA Regnum News, 31 December 2011) -- As of 31 December 2011, more than 48.5 thousand residents of the Yamal, more than half of them senior citizens, have expressed their desire to travel outside the autonomous regions, according to the press service of the governor of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District. The rehousing program has been funded in part by the federal targeted program "Housing" and by the regional target program "Cooperation." However, the funds are clearly insufficient. The numbers of people wanting to move from the Far North is much greater. Therefore, beginning in 2012 funds will be sent to the county annually. Currently, work is underway in the Tuymen district on 14 blocks of flats to house more than 2.5 thousand "yamaltsev," who have decided to leave the Far North.
Posted 31 December 2011; 1:17:06 PM. Permalink
(IA Regnum, 31 December 2011) -- Duma of Khanty-Mansiysk approved "Strategy of socio-economic development of the Khanty-Mansiysk 2020." The strategy's 329 pages containing 9 main analytical chapters and 7 annexes, according to the press service of the Administration of Khanty-Mansiysk. Sections of the strategy include an assessment of the existing state of the city's economy, demographics, workforce, quality of life of the population of the Khanty-Mansiysk, financial and public sector, the market of consumer services, the city's infrastructure, manufacturing, state of the environment, public safety and give a forecast for each aspect. The strategy provides a comparative analysis of competitive advantages and disadvantages of the municipality in relation to other areas of the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug – Yugra, describes problems, and gives an assessment of existing capacity and competitiveness of the economy of the city. It also contains a section that provides an assessment of current measures of municipal authorities to improve the socio-economic status of the population of the city, as well as evaluation of the implementation on the territory of the federal, regional, municipal and industrial programs of social and economic development. The strategy contains a number of scenarios (options) for development: Inertia, Innovation, and Intermediate (moderately optimistic). The document also reflects the long-term priorities and goals for their implementation in the chosen scenario. The final section devoted to a detailed description of the mechanisms for implementing the strategy. The development strategy of the Khanty-Mansiysk is linked to a number of strategic policy documents of the regional and federal level: the concept of long-term socio-economic development of the Russian Federation to 2020, the concept of socio-economic development of regions of the Russian Federation, as well as of socio-economic development of the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Region in 2020 and plan for development and distribution of productive forces Ugra for 2006-2015. and 2020. The main instruments for implementing the strategy at the municipal level will be operating in the program of socio-economic development of the Khanty-Mansiysk. Note the capital of Yugra in the city today there are 34 programs.
Posted 31 December 2011; 1:01:39 PM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/BarentsObserver, 19 December 2011) -- Russian media is now asking why the whole crew stayed onboard during the towing of the oil jack-up rig ”Kolskaya” that overturned and sank in the Sea of Okhotsk yesterday. With the break of day, search for survivors and dead after the accident outside the island of Sakhalin continued. 14 dead have so far been found, the Federal Agency for Sea and River Transport's web site reads. The rig sank in course of only 20 minutes, Murmansk Oblast Governor Dmitry Dmitriyenko told RIA Novosti. 32 of the 67 people aboard came from the Murmansk region. 14 persons were found alive after the accident and picked up by boats taking part in the rescue operation. All the 14 survivors were on duty on deck during the towing and were wearing survival suits and life-jackets. ... Russian media is now asking why the whole crew stayed onboard during the towing, and why towing was conducted at all in such bad weather. A source in the Federal Agency for Sea and River Transport says to Kommersant that half of the people onboard had nothing to do with the towing operation – they were drilling operators, crane operators and others. – The number of casualties did not have to be that high, the source says. According to Russian instructions for safety at sea, only a required minimum of personnel should be onboard a vessel that is being towed. The Russian Agency for Transport Supervision has started investigation of the accident. The weather in the area is bad, with wind of 10 m/s, waves of 2 meters and temperature of -2°C. The water temperature is 1°C.
Posted 19 December 2011; 10:36:35 AM. Permalink
(Lisa Demer/Anchorage Daily News, 6 December 2011) -- A longtime Shell contractor has nearly completed a massive, customized icebreaking ship for the company's drilling projects in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. The icebreaker is part of a specialized fleet Shell hopes to deploy for exploration drilling next summer, if it can clear all the legal and regulatory hurdles. Named the Aiviq, the Eskimo word for walrus, the $200 million, 360-foot steel vessel's main job will be to move anchor lines that will attach drilling rigs to the sea floor in the shallow Arctic. But it's also on standby in case of an oil spill -- it could recover about 10,000 barrels of spilled crude. The ship was designed to cut through ice a meter thick and likely will be able to move through thicker ice, its builder says. It can operate at minus 58 degrees. Shell points to the ship as evidence that it's serious about drilling in -- and protecting -- the fragile Arctic. Edison Chouest Offshore is building the ship at its Larose shipyard, North American Shipbuilding.
Posted 17 December 2011; 7:05:11 PM. Permalink
(Mia Bennett/Eye on the Arctic via Alaska Dispatch, 15 December 2011) -- Off the east coast of the Russian Chukotka peninsula, winter has come hard and fast, freezing parts of the Bering Strait. Fifteen miles south of the village of Yanrakynnot in the Sinyavinsky Strait, 100 beluga whales are trapped in the ice. Hunters have reported that they are in two polynyas and are currently able to breathe freely. However, food and clean water will soon run out, and the whales will likely die of exhaustion or starvation if the ice is not soon broken up. Roman Kopin, governor of Chukotka, has written letters to the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Emergency Situations requesting an icebreaker to aid the beluga whales. He suggested the marine rescue boat Ruby as a possible source of salvation for the whales. The icebreaker is a couple of days away, busy helping the Korean cargo ship Oriental Angel, which has run aground on the Gulf of Anadyr. All of its 90 crew members managed to escape on inflatable boats, but there are still 1,100 gallons of flammable liquid onboard the ship. Meanwhile, Chukotka authorities are busy trying to find out how far away the nearest source of clean water is from the whales.
Posted 16 December 2011; 3:00:01 PM. Permalink
(Alex DeMarban/Alaska Dispatch, 5 December 2011) -- A Native corporation's decision Monday to ask a Russian icebreaker to deliver an emergency shipment of fuel added an exclamation point to Alaska demands that the U.S. Coast Guard boost its Arctic presence as climate change opens ice-locked regions to development. "This is an example where we have to increase our icebreaking capability and have the ability to receive fuel in these ports, because we're going to have a lot more activity up north," said Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. The Coast Guard has reported an increase in vessel traffic through the Bering Strait and expects more as tourism, Arctic shipping and petroleum development ramp up in coming years. The Renda, a 371-foot double-hulled vessel that recently muscled through five-foot thick ice, was the only ship the Sitnasuak Native corporation could find to break through Nome’s sea ice and deliver 1.5 million gallons of fuel to the town of 3,600, said Jason Evans, Sitnasuak chairman. The unusual fuel delivery, apparently unprecedented in Western Alaska, arose because sea ice around Nome recently prevented a fuel barge operated by an Alaska company from delivering the fuel. ... ...only the privately owned Renda, one of eight marine tankers in Russia that can punch through thick sea ice, said Evans. He couldn't find similar ships in the U.S. There are none in the North Pacific or Arctic seas, though they do exist in the Great Lakes, said Mikhail Sheshtakov, supply and logistics manager for Vitus Marine. Evans said his company's search highlighted the nation's limits in the high Arctic. "We're definitely behind in terms of how many vessels we have and their abilities, and it's something we might want to look at with proposed offshore oil and gas development and new vessel routes opening in the Arctic," said Evans. "The Russians have known this is coming and have developed Arctic shipping expertise. The U.S. should also."
Posted 8 December 2011; 4:18:58 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 30 November 2011) -- The future of Arctic sovereignty will be riding on traditional Inuit wooden sleds that are being assembled by a group of Canadian Rangers in Yellowknife. The nine Rangers have been tasked with building more than 30 qamutiks — sleds that are traditionally used to haul supplies over snow and ice — for use in guarding remote northern regions and promoting Canada's claim of sovereignty over the Arctic. The Rangers, who were commissioned by the Canadian Ranger Patrol for the sled surveillance project, all hail from Nunavut and include six people chosen from Clyde River and three from Pond Inlet. "We grew up with dog teams and we would build qamutiks for dogs to pull … but today the qamutiks are pulled by snow machines and we're making smaller versions of qamutiks," Elijah Panipakoocho of Clyde River told CBC News in Inuktitut. The select members of the group were chosen based on their skill and craftsmanship, said David Suqslaq, who is in charge of the operation scheduled to last until Dec. 9. Suqslaq, who is from Pond Inlet, said he will oversee the qamutik construction to ensure his crew is "working sections like cross-pieces" to build the sleds properly. The Rangers are trained residents in northern communities who provide support during military and search and rescue operations.
Posted 1 December 2011; 10:05:53 AM. Permalink
(Eye on the Arctic, 4 November 2011) -- Listen to feature story including in-depth interviews with Kiruna locals [mp3]. Sweden's most northerly town, Kiruna, has to re-locate. The mine it grew up around has caused subsidence that has reached the outskirts of the town. And a controversy has erupted over where the new town should be built. The town grew up around the iron ore mine over a century ago and mining is still its lifeblood - the largest private sector employer in the area. But the seemingly never ending iron ore deposits are causing a conundrum – they lead right under the heart of the town. And as drilling continues more than a kilometre underground, cracks are starting to appear on the surface. ... A year ago the town had a plan – to move four kilometres north, demolishing some buildings and transporting older ones of cultural value. But earlier this year the plan was scrapped – as the local council said the land was not suitable. The new proposal is to move the town to the east but there is still a great deal of uncertainty about where, how and when. "It's not been decided yet which buildings will be moved or rebuilt. There are ongoing negotiations with the mining company LKAB and other actors," explained Mariann Nordmark at Kiruna council. Anders Lindberg, a spokesperson for LKAB, said the direction the town moves in could be crucial to its long term survival. He said that if the council goes ahead with plans to move east — in the same direction as the iron ore seam - it could mean that people will have to move again in 70 or 80 years time - And if iron ore prices are too low to cover the costs, he says it could cause the mine to close, shutting off the town's main source of income. But the local council leader, Lars Törnman, said the costs of moving are minor in comparison to the multi-million-dollar profits made by the mining company. "It's nonsense to say that the cost of moving again would cause the mine to close. LKAB is making multi-million-dollar investments and enormous profits, he said. Törnman added that as long as it's unclear how much ore is under the town — and when it will be mined — people need to be prepared to move again and even build houses that can be easily transported. While most locals accept that the town has to move to make way for the mine, there is a growing sense of frustration in the community, says local Swedish Radio reporter Magdalena Martinsson, as no one knows for sure where Kiruna will be located in the future.
Posted 30 November 2011; 11:40:29 AM. Permalink
(CJCD Mix 100 News via hqyellowknife.com, 25 November 2011) -- Yellowknife, N.W.T. - Whether it's building, buying, or renting - housing costs in the NWT are through the roof. Carleton University PhD student, Nick Falvo, made that point clear on Thursday. After a two-and-a-half year study, he presented a report on housing at Yellowknife's City Hall. Nick Falvo said government funding is critical to maintain housing. "In 1993, the federal government discontinued its ongoing, permanent commitment to social housing. So, since that time there have been some one-off announcements of funding, but there's never been an ongoing, long-term commitment." Falvo's report says that the cost of utilities in the territory is double that of the rest of Canada, and that it costs twice as much to build a home on the Arctic coast than it does in Hay River or Fort Smith. Falvo and Arlene Hache, the executive director of the Centre for Northern Families, released a report on homelessness to the GNWT in May, and Falvo said little has been done to address it. "Wendy Bisaro did table the homelessness report in the legislature, and she has asked questions since that time, and there was some discussion about the report in the lead up to the territorial election. But, we're still waiting for an actual response from the Government of the Northwest Territories." After the presentation, Hache and Bisaro, the MLA for Frame Lake, joined a panel discussion to talk housing in the NWT.
Posted 28 November 2011; 11:04:05 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 27 November 2011) -- The federal government will move ahead with its planned military facility in Resolute, Nunavut. Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised an Arctic warfare training facility in 2007. The facility looks like it will now become reality, but with a few changes to the original plan. The new facility will focus mainly on training for disasters. "I think the tragic event of this past fall highlighted the need for being able to have a facility that we can operate out of,” said Maj. Bill Chambré with the Department of National Defence. In August, 12 people died when a 737-jet slammed in to a hill near the airport. Soldiers responded right away and helped save three lives because they happened to be training in Resolute at the time. Chambré says instead of a facility dedicated solely to protecting Canadian Arctic sovereignty, soldiers there will learn how to respond to accidents and disasters in the High Arctic. "My focus is mainly building a training facility but to also have a facility where we can conduct operations." The facility will be built on to the existing Polar Continental Shelf Project research base, which is already the largest in the community. It will have a warehouse for 40 snowmobiles and ATVs, accommodations for 140 people, and a small infirmary. It will also have an operations centre and classrooms. The building’s price tag is $18 million and the final design is expected to be complete by next month. Chambré insists it is not the permanent search and rescue base northerners have called for because it’s unlikely the military will use the facility year round. The government plans to work out of the facility mostly during winter, with people from other government departments working there mainly in summer. “I certainly don't see this going idle, especially when we have two government departments sharing,” said Chambré. Building materials will arrive in Resolute on the next sealift, and construction is scheduled to be complete by 2013.
Posted 28 November 2011; 12:09:03 AM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 23 November 2011) -- Russia and Canada are talking about a revival of the Arctic Bridge – a sea route connecting Murmansk and Churchill. The Arctic Bridge is a seasonal sea route linking Murmansk in Northern Russia with Churchill in Hudson Bay, Canada. Now, the route is only easily navigable about four months of the year, but it will become more and more viable as the climate warms. Both Canada and Russia will benefit from using the Arctic Brigde, said Jeff McEachern from Port of Churchill at a forum in Krasnoyarsk on Siberia and the Arctic, m51 writes, citing RIA Novosti. Russia will get easier access to Northern American markets, while Canada can use the Northen Sea Route from Murmansk to Asia. The concept of an "Arctic Bridge", with a hub in Churchill, was proposed by Canadians in the early 1990s. A protocol of intent on the establishment of a seaways trade route between Murmansk Oblast and the Province of Manitoba was signed in 2002. The first shipment on the Arctic Bridge was conducted in October 2007, when the Murmansk Shipping Company’s vessel Kapitan Sviridov transported nitrogen fertilizers to Churchill, BarentsObserver then reported.
Posted 23 November 2011; 11:46:12 PM. Permalink
(John Bonar/BSR, 16 November 2011) -- President Medvedev participated on November 15th, along with Russian Railways (RZD) president, Vladimir Yakunin in the laying of the final link in the Berkalit-Tommot-Nizhny Bestyakh railway which connects Yakutia to Russia’s mainline railways the BAM and Trans Siberian. The construction was first planned in 1985. President Medvedev congratulated everyone who took part in the construction of the line, stressing that the work was carried out in permafrost and the difficult conditions of the Russian North. The Sakha Republic (Yakutia) is the largest subject of the Russian Federation being only slightly smaller than India in land territory and is rich in natural resources. By 2030 further development of rail infrastructure in Yakutia and the Magadan region envisages the construction of a strategic railway line from Nizhny Bestyakh to Magadan. In the longer term, it is also planned to integrate the Chukotka and Kamchatka regions of Russia’s northeast into the country’s railway network. The immediate next stage is to construct a combined road and rail bridge over the Lena river to connect the line to Yakutsk, the capital of the autonomous Republic. With a link now established between Sakha (Yakutia) and the Russian network to handle the increasing volume of rail freight, the rapid development of the BAM and Trans-Siberian has become even more urgent, RZD has said. As part of its own investment programme, Russian Railways is continuing to upgrade the rail network in stages, including the infrastructure of the Baikal-Amur Main Line, in order to handle the future volumes of freight traffic forecast with the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).
Posted 16 November 2011; 11:15:21 PM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 4 November 2011) -- The world's northernmost railway line will be taken further. The line, which was built by Gazprom as supply line to the huge Bovanenkovo gas field, will be taken further north to Kharasevey, regional Governor Dmitry Kobylkin confirms to journalists. Regional authorities and Gazprom have already agreed about formalities with the project, Oilru.com reports. As previously reported, the Bovanenkovo railway was officially opened early 2011. The 572-km-long connection ends up in the station of Obskaya, where it joins ends with the national Russian railway grid. The gas-rich Yamal Peninsula is top priority for Gazprom, which is now investing big sums in regional field development. The 4.9 trillion cubic meter Bovanenkovo field is due to come into production in 2012, after which several more regional fields are in line. Among them is the Kharasaveyskoye, another huge field, located not far north of the Bovanenkovo. Unlike other Russian railway lines, the Obskaya-Bovanenkovo line is owned by Gazprom. As previously reported, the Russian Railways have been invited to take over the line, but has shown little interest. In addition to railway and field development in Yamal, Gazprom is also investing in the laying of the Bovanenkovo-Ukhta gas pipeline.
Posted 11 November 2011; 11:20:53 PM. Permalink
(Jill Burke/Alaska Dispatch, 4 November 2011) -- As winter begins to settle in, a few villages in Alaska remain without the fuel they will need to heat and power homes and businesses during the state’s harsh months ahead. Many of the state's remote communities are accessible only by boat or plane. Once bays and coastlines freeze up, or rivers become too low, boats and barges are no longer available as transport options, forcing often cash-strapped communities to pay an even higher price per gallon to have their fuel supplies flown in. Edna Bay, a small, isolated island village in southeast Alaska's Tongass National Forest is one of three communities that, as of Nov. 4, doesn't have the reserves it needs to get through an entire winter, according to Alaska's Division of Community and Regional Affairs, which in July began monitoring community fuel preparedness statewide in advance of the 2011-2012 winter season. The status of five other villages -- Nunam Iqua, Red Devil, Port Alexander, Karluk and Kasigluk -- remains unknown, despite efforts by the division's Fuel Watch program to get in touch with people in those communities to find out whether they are stocked up or need assistance.
Posted 11 November 2011; 10:33:41 PM. Permalink
(Eye on the Arctic, 10 November 2011) -- Community mayors in Canada's eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut, previously opposed to a planned port at Steensby Inlet for the Mary River Iron Ore project, now say they would not object to it if the communities were compensated. "I'll want to work with them directly to ensure people of Hall Beach benefit directly with Baffinland, not through QIA (Qikiqtani Inuit Association)," said Hall Beach Mayor Ammie Kipsigak, speaking in Inuktitut. "QIA and NTI (Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.) will be giving a bit of royalty money to our community, but we will want direct benefits. For example, a meat processing plant or a fish plant and they would pay." Paul Quassa, acting mayor of Igloolik, said his community is asking Baffinland for new houses and paved roads, as well as a fish plant. "They should give us a fish plant so that we can utilize the hundred thousand pounds of commercial fishery that is available in Steensby." “QIA and NTI (Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.) will be giving a bit of royalty money to our community, but we will want direct benefits. For example, a meat processing plant or a fish plant and they would pay.” Paul Quassa, acting mayor of Igloolik, said his community is asking Baffinland for new houses and paved roads, as well as a fish plant. "They should give us a fish plant so that we can utilize the hundred thousand pounds of commercial fishery that is available in Steensby." In a letter sent Oct. 4 to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Quassa wrote that people in Igloolik "continue to express grave reservations over the Steensby site [but] many are at least willing to consider what benefits might accrue directly to our community if it becomes clear the proposed port site cannot be avoided."
Posted 11 November 2011; 4:02:05 PM. Permalink
(Rod Nickel/Reuters, 11 November 2011) -- Winnipeg, MB - Every summer for three months, the Hudson Bay ice breaks up and ships load Canadian Prairie grain for export, putting more than 100 people to work in the tiny northern Manitoba town of Churchill. The town of just 900 - well known for the polar bears that often wander through its streets - is Canada's only Arctic port. But that key driver of the local economy could become as endangered as the polar bear next year when the Canadian Wheat Board, the port's biggest shipper, loses its monopoly on marketing Western Canadian wheat and barley. The Wheat Board will become a smaller grain-pooling option for farmers starting next August, according to legislation being put through Parliament by the Conservative government, and that could threaten Churchill's long-standing share of grain shipments. The CWB has previously favored the northern port for its cost savings, thanks to its proximity to Prairie farmers and access to some European markets. But big grain handlers like Viterra, Richardson International Ltd and Cargill may be more likely to use port terminals they own on the Great Lakes and or on the West Coast to ship grain overseas. "[The port] brings a lot of out-of-towners here and local businesses get a boost off of it," said Michlynn Gulick, a local manager for trucking firm Gardewine North, adding she's optimistic the port will remain busy. "It's been here forever."
Posted 11 November 2011; 2:26:45 PM. Permalink
(Malte Humpert/Arctic Institute, Center for Circumpolar Security Studies, 28 October 2011) -- Plans for the construction of an enclosed ultra-modern city on the New Siberian Island group are taking shape. The Arctic city of Umka, to be located a mere 1,000 miles from the North Pole, will house up to 5,000 residents, primarily soldiers, border guards, scientists, and oil and gas industry workers. The costs of the project are estimated at between $6.4 - $8 billion. According to the architects Umka will be a "fully functioning city and research facility, complete with its own self-sufficient food production, a near-zero waste handling system." The settlement will be modeled after a fictional Moon city or an isolated space station and will allow researchers to live in the region for longer periods of time rather than for short expeditions. The residents will be completely isolated from the harsh environment and live under a vast climate-controlled dome 1.2 kilometers long and 800 meter wide. The now-released designs bear resemblance to the Biosphere 2 project constructed in Oracle, Arizona between 1987 and 1991. This artificial, materially closed ecosystem was used to study the possible use of closed biospheres in, e.g., space colonization.
Posted 31 October 2011; 12:33:16 AM. Permalink
(AP via Eye on the Arctic, 28 October 2011) -- Facebook is to build a new server farm on the edge of the Arctic Circle — its first outside the United States — to improve performance for European users, officials of the social networking site said Thursday. It will also expose them to potential eavesdropping from a Swedish intelligence agency, according to Sweden's Pirate Party, a group opposing government interference with the internet. Facebook confirmed Thursday it had reviewed potential locations across Europe and decided on the northern Swedish city of Luleå for the data center partly because of the cold climate — crucial for keeping the servers cool — and access to renewable energy from nearby hydropower facilities. The move reflects the growing international presence of the California-based site, which counts 800 million users worldwide. "Facebook has more users outside the U.S. than inside," Facebook director of site operations Tom Furlong told The Associated Press. "It was time for us to expand in Europe." He said European users would get better performance from having a node for data traffic closer to them. Facebook currently stores data at sites in California, Virginia and Oregon and is building another facility in North Carolina.
Posted 29 October 2011; 12:07:42 PM. Permalink
(Trude Pettersen/Barents Observer, 17 October 2011) -- A Trans-Arctic fiber optic line connecting Tokyo and London is planned to go through Murmansk. The Russian company Polarnet Project plans the construction of a Russian trans-Arctic cable line, Rotax, with the cost of nearly $2 billion. The Governmental Commission for Federal Communications and Technological Issues approved the project last Friday. The 17,000 kilometer submerged line is planned to extend from Russia’s Arctic to Pacific coast, with an expected capacity of 9.6 terabits per second, Interfax reports. The project is planned to be implemented in three steps. The first stage implies the laying of a cable line in the Russian economic zone of the Arctic and Pacific Oceans from Bude (the UK) to Tokyo via Murmansk, Anadyr and Vladivostok. The first stage cost is preliminary estimated at $860 million. The second stage implies the laying of cable line extensions to the coast of the Russian Arctic and Far East territories and has the cost of $500 million. The third stage will lay the land segment of the cable line as an element of the national optical fiber network in the strategic partnership with Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft. It will cost $500 million.
Posted 21 October 2011; 12:21:02 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 20 October 2011) -- A new satellite launched Wednesday is promising to provide access to higher broadband internet speeds in rural Canada. ViaSat-1, launched aboard a Proton rocket in Kazakhstan on Wednesday afternoon, will be able to support "4G" download speeds of up to 25 megabits per second and provide broadband service to 1.5 million customers in North America, says Xplornet Communications Inc. The company says ViaSat-1 has a capacity greater than all other existing North American broadband satellites combined. Xplornet says it has purchased 100 per cent of the Canadian capacity within a certain range of spectrum for the satellite called the Ka band and will be using that entirely for rural broadband. The Canadian government kicked in $28 million dollars to help the private company expand its rural broadband offerings.
Posted 21 October 2011; 12:15:25 PM. Permalink
(Tristin Hopper/National Post, 10 October 2011) -- The Coast Guard icebreaker Louis St. Laurent has freed innumerable ice-locked vessels, explored the unseen depths of the Arctic bottom and hosted prime ministers and the world’s top Arctic scientists. Recently, however, the bright red workhorse of Canada’s marine Arctic presence has been doing not much of anything. For the past two weeks, the 111-metre icebreaker has been stranded off the Nunavut coast by a loose propeller nut. Since Sept. 27, the ship’s bobbing red form has been a familiar sight from the shores of the 1,500-person Arctic hamlet of Cambridge Bay. The ship was stranded by a maddeningly simple malfunction: A nut on the centre propeller that was knocked out of place by no more than a few inches. ... A crew of 48 remain on board, along with a team of Vancouver-based underwater ship repair specialists. The team of cold water divers are scrambling to get the ship operational before freeze-up, which is only weeks away.The Louis St. Laurent experienced frequent propeller malfunctions into the 1990s due to the propellers being constructed from inferior metal. The Coast Guard repaired the problem in 2000 by installing stainless steel propellers. Regardless, last year the ship experienced a similar propeller shaft breakdown. Built in 1969, the Louis St. Laurent is due for a long-awaited retirement in 2017, when the $720 million John Diefenbaker is set to take its place. “We feel it is a very capable vessel and it can do the job but, at the same time, it is now 40 years old and it is getting time to think about a replacement,” George Da Pont, commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, told a Senate committee in 2008.
Posted 11 October 2011; 3:18:49 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti via Arctic.ru, 4 October 2011) -- On September 28, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed decree No. 1256 lifting the ban on the privatization of the nuclear icebreaker fleet. The decree is posted on the Kremlin website that lists regulatory documents and executive orders. The decree amends the state privatization program listing federally owned facilities and enterprises that cannot be privatized. Now it is possible to privatize the nuclear icebreaker fleet and its coastal maintenance infrastructure. An industry source told RIA Novosti that the decree will help turn nuclear icebreaker operator Rosatomflot into a shareholding company with 100% public capital. As before, the company is to be managed by the Rosatom Nuclear Energy State Corporation, the regulatory body of the Russian nuclear industry. In all, ten nuclear-powered vessels, including nine icebreakers and the lighter aboard ship (LASH) Sevmorput, have been built in Russia throughout the entire history of the icebreaker fleet’s operation. Three nuclear-powered icebreakers, including the world’s first nuclear icebreaker Lenin, whose keel was laid in 1956, the Sibir and the Arktika, have been decommissioned to date.
Posted 6 October 2011; 5:08:53 PM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti/Arctic.ru, 4 October 2011) -- Russia signed an agreement on Tuesday on international funding for co-financing nature conservation projects operating under the Arctic Council. The agreement was signed by Russia's Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev and Managing Director of Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO) Magnus Rystedt. This agreement started the work of the first international fund for co-financing nature conservation projects operating under the Arctic Council. The aim of the fund, the Project Support Instrument (PSI), is to finance Arctic Council member states helping to protect the Arctic environment. Russia was the first Arctic Council member state to accept the new instrument. "The thing is not in money. The most important thing for us is that we have the same aims. We would like the Arctic to be environmentally clean", Trutnev said at the signing ceremony. The fund will finance projects aimed at eliminating 194 ecologically damaged "hot spots" in Russia, according to Trutnev. "The PSI fund is not the first mutual project that we have with Russia although it should be a powerful impetus for further cooperation", Rystedt said.
Posted 6 October 2011; 5:06:21 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 4 October 2011) -- Two people died when an Air Tindi passenger plane crashed east of Yellowknife Tuesday afternoon and two others survived, although their conditions have not yet been disclosed. A Twin Otter medevac flight carrying the two survivors arrived in Yellowknife at about 6:30 p.m. MT Tuesday, officials confirmed. Both people have since been transferred to Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife. Yellowknife-based Air Tindi has not released any names, but did confirm there were four people on the Cessna 208B aircraft, including the pilot. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada will send two investigators to the crash site from its Edmonton office on Wednesday.
Posted 4 October 2011; 11:45:33 PM. Permalink
(Chris Windeyer/Nunatsiaq News, 29 August 2011) -- Iqaluit faces the prospect of several days of rolling blackouts after the main generator at the city’s power plant broke down during the early morning hours of Aug. 29. Power was out early Monday in the Plateau subdivision, parts of Tundra Ridge and Apex. The Government of Nunavut also announced on Twitter that all schools in Iqaluit are closed. Schools will re-open Wednesday, Aug. 31, the GN said. Peter Mackey, president of Qulliq Energy Corp., said the outages began when the power plant’s main generator broke down at the same time that another generator had been taken offline for maintenance. The engine’s turbo system suffered a malfunction of a major component that’s not easily replaced, Mackey said. “It’s not something that’s kept on the shelf,” he said. The two remaining generators can only produce 5.2 megawatts of the 7.5 megawatts Iqaluit needs to fully function during the summer. QEC put replacement parts on rush order, but Mackey said the soonest Iqaluit could be back at full power is Wednesday.
Posted 29 August 2011; 2:45:45 PM. Permalink
In light of solemn accolade to move Northern Sea Route administration to Arkhangelsk, the region is planning a construction of a deep-water sea port of 28 mln tons cargo capacity. Arkhangelsk is reporting the plans to construct a deep-water sea port in Sukhoye More bay of the White Sea. The new port is believed to become a crucial link in logistics system and to develop Russia's foreign trade transportation. The port will also contribute to development of Northern Sea Route, say Arkhangelsk authorities. These days, the official public gathered up in Arkhangelsk to praise the idea of entitling the region with a status of the capital of Northern Sea Route. "We have an ice-breakers fleet, and we can deliver a vessel to any place in the Arctic area," said Artur Chilingarov, a Russian polar explorer. There needs to be a proper base point; and I think the capital of Northern Sea Route should be Arkhangelsk again. The city has all possibilities for that. Boris Gryzlov, the chairman of Russian State Duma and the mainstream political party — the United Russia — was also there to support this idea: "When we were considering a revival of the Northen Sea Route, we were connecting it with Arkhangelsk. ... Arkhangelsk is definitely the place where Arctic exploration will start from." Noteworthy, the United Russia puts the development of the Northern Sea Route on the priority projects list of the political party, while some experts believe that speculations about the port construction is nothing but pre-election campaign of the party that presently faces a rating plummet down to 46%. There are no calculations or deadlines available to public for the deep-water port construction; few media sources reported 2011 to be the start for construction works, however the information is not confirmed.
Posted 10 August 2011; 4:47:56 PM. Permalink
(Beatrice Fantoni/Postmedia News via Ottawa Citizen, 8 August 2011) -- Canada will lose out to Russia's Arctic shipping routes because it is too small to finance the infrastructure, France's ambassador for the polar regions said Monday. Melting polar ice will make Canada's Northwest Passage more accessible in the next decades, but Canada does not seem interested in exploiting it for shipping, said Michel Rocard, who recently returned from a tour of the Arctic aboard the Canadian icebreaker Amundsen. "I have the impression that Canada has given up on the competition to attract a large part of the traffic in 25 or 30 years," Rocard said. The former French prime minister said Canada is "too small to finance itself the infrastructure" needed to spur commercial shipping through its Northwest Passage — a shorter route between European and Asian markets than the Suez and Panama canals. In contrast, Rocard said, Russia is an "Arctic force" with several icebreakers, including four new nuclear-powered ones. Rob Huebert, a professor in circumpolar relations at the University of Calgary, said it's not a question of being "too small" but rather one of political will and economics determining how fast Canada moves on developing transpolar trade. "We still haven't really made up our minds if we want international shipping coming though our waterways," Huebert said. "Because there's still ice there's not the economic argument for transpolar shipping." Huebert said shipping companies that transit through the Panama Canal or around the tip of South America still can't be convinced to take the northern route because it requires an icebreaker escort and the shipping season is shorter. He added there is no "concentrated effort" to chart Canada's Arctic waterways to reflect recent changes in sea ice, making it dangerous in some cases for vessels to travel through. U.S. researchers have said global warming could leave the region ice-free by 2030.
Posted 9 August 2011; 9:28:00 AM. Permalink
(AFP via Yahoo! News, 8 August 2011) -- Russian Arctic shipping routes would attract more traffic than Canada's Northwest Passage -- both made increasingly accessible by melting polar ice -- a French envoy predicted Monday. "I have the impression that Canada has given up on the competition to attract a large part of the traffic in 25 or 30 years," said France's roving ambassador for polar regions Michel Rocard. The former French prime minister spoke to AFP in Montreal after a tour of the Arctic aboard the Canadian icebreaker Amundsen. "The road eastward along the Siberian coast is less winding (than the Northwest Passage in Canada's north)... there are fewer islands (to navigate around) and finally, it has fewer risks and is more direct, even if it's a bit longer," he said. Russia currently requires that any vessel or convoy traveling along its northern frontier be accompanied by two icebreakers, Rocard said. But US researchers have said global warming could leave the region ice-free by 2030. Canada is "too small to finance itself the infrastructure" needed to spur commercial shipping through in its Arctic -- a shorter route between European and Asian markets than the Suez and Panama canals. Russia is an "Arctic force" with several icebreakers, including four new nuclear-powered ones, Rocard said. And while Resolute Bay in Canada's far north has a mere 280 inhabitants, Russia's northernmost port cities of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk are home to 300,000 and 350,000 people, respectively.
Posted 8 August 2011; 5:27:37 PM. Permalink
(UPI, 14 July 2011) --OTTAWA - Canada's military is developing plans to install bases in the arctic as international interest in oil increases, the Toronto Star reported Thursday. The newspaper said the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is bracing for showdowns with Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States over arctic oil and mineral rights, along with shipping lanes as the northern ice cap shrinks. "To maintain its sovereignty over its northern region, Canada will need to develop enforcement and surveillance capabilities for the arctic," the report says. The military study is proposing small far-northern military bases with landing strips to accommodate C-17 transport aircraft that carry large numbers of troops, helicopters and support equipment, the Star said. The study the newspaper saw is still in the draft stage and suggests the most cost-effective and tactically effective first base should be in Rankin Inlet in the territory of Nunavut, on the western shore of Hudson Bay.
Posted 24 July 2011; 3:35:57 PM. Permalink
(Alaska Volcano Observatory via RedOrbit, 24 July 2011) -- The Alaska Volcano Observatory has issued an eruption advisory for a remote volcano in the Aleutian Islands which, according to various media reports, lies underneath a major American flight route. According to the Daily Mail, the volcano in question--5,676-foot tall Mount Cleveland (also known as Cleveland Volcano) on the western end of the island of Chuhinadak--"could be poised for its first big eruption in ten years," which has experts anticipating that "it could erupt at any moment, spewing ash clouds up to 20,000 feet above sea level with little further warning." Yereth Rosen of Reuters reports that "thermal anomalies" had been detected via satellite on Thursday, and that the volcano, which is located approximately 940 miles southwest of Anchorage, "could erupt with little further warning." "A major eruption could disrupt international air travel because Cleveland Volcano, like others in the Aleutians, lies directly below the commercial airline flight path between North America and Asia, said John Power, scientist-in-charge at the Alaska Volcano Observatory," Rosen added. Airlines have been warned to brace themselves for possible "travel chaos," the Daily Mail reported late Friday night. Mount Cleveland rests underneath a flight path between North America and Asia that is said to be utilized by several major airlines.
Posted 24 July 2011; 3:32:14 PM. Permalink
(US Department of Homeland Security, 15 July 2011) -- the Arctic is critical to U.S. commercial and homeland security interests. In 2009, President Obama issued National Security Presidential Directive 66 / Homeland Security Presidential Directive 25, outlining the administration's Arctic Region Policy. The U.S. Coast Guard, a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), plays a critical role in implementing this policy. Their mission includes securing international commerce, protecting the environment, defending America's maritime borders, and saving those in peril at sea or on other navigable waterways. "In the near future, the Coast Guard will face challenges posed by increased commercial shipping, resource exploration, and recreational activity in that part of the world," says DHS program manager Theo Gemelas, who oversees two Centers of Excellence at the Department's Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). The Coast Guard's research planners are examining the future capability and technological needs of its operators. To ensure that tomorrow's Arctic guardians will get the tools they'll need, the Coast Guard must devise innovative solutions today.
Posted 18 July 2011; 1:58:35 PM. Permalink
(Edward Welsch/Market Watch, 16 July 2011) -- CALGARY - Royal Dutch Shell PLC said Friday it plans to sell its stake in a C$16.2-billion Northwest Territories natural-gas pipeline project, as well as its other assets in a vast natural-gas basin in the territory. The fate of the MacKenzie Gas Project, which would bring natural gas from fields bordering the Arctic Ocean to markets in North America, has long been in doubt. Regulators approved the project last year, but other partners including ConocoPhillips and Imperial Oil Ltd., controlled by Exxon Mobil Corp., haven't committed to build it. A Shell spokesman wouldn't provide details on the company's decision to sell its assets in MacKenzie, other than that it was part of Shell's normal review of its holdings. "Shell still believes the project is important for Canada," the spokesman said. Work on the MacKenzie gas pipeline was suspended in 2007 after a regulatory process dragged on. It was finally approved by regulators late last year, after a six-year review process. But during that review, the economic rationale for bringing natural gas from the far north eroded, as a surge in new shale gas supplies were being unlocked in the U.S. and other parts of Canada by new drilling technology. In addition to its stake in the pipeline project, which would include a gathering system and processing facility, Shell's Niglintgak natural-gas field in the area will also be put up for sale. The Shell spokesman said the company has prepared a package of data on its assets in the MacKenzie Delta and has made it available to potential buyers.
Posted 17 July 2011; 11:02:39 PM. Permalink
(Randy Boswell/Postmedia News via Canada.com, 14 July 2011) -- A dramatic and previously unknown watercolour scene of Canada — painted during the golden age of Arctic exploration by that era's most legendary artist — has come to light in Britain after 175 years. The image of an enormous iceberg towering above the famous Arctic expedition ship HMS Terror and one of its rowboats was painted by Royal Navy artist-turned-admiral George Back, who captained the vessel during a trouble-plagued voyage to Hudson Bay in 1836. The painting, which has emerged from the obscurity of a Back family collection to be auctioned in London by Bonhams, is expected to fetch up to $25,000 at a maritime art sale in September.
Posted 15 July 2011; 1:31:03 PM. Permalink
(Allan Woods/The Toronto Star, 14 July 2011) -- OTTAWA—It is costly to operate in the vast and inhospitable Arctic. But the Canadian military is exploring a way to cut costs and speed up the movement of troops and equipment by building several new northern bases. Along the way it could help to strengthen the country's Arctic sovereignty claims by placing additional boots on the tundra throughout the year. The plan, sketched out in a study that was commissioned by the force's operational support command, is a variation of the one put in place for overseas operations. Barebones transportation hubs — essentially a suitable landing strip and storage facility — at strategic spots around the globe make it more efficient when soldiers are called out to a global hot spot in a pinch. Just this week, Defence Minister Peter MacKay was in Kuwait to announce an agreement to use the country as a transit point for equipment coming out of combat in Kandahar and making the long journey home to Canada. The military is looking at a domestic variant of those overseas hubs. The plan could result in remote bases and a small-but-permanent military presence in far-off communities. Locations could include Alert, Inuvik, Whitehorse, Rankin Inlet, Iqaluit or Nanisivik, according to the technical memorandum prepared by the research wing of the military last year. The Canadian Forces says no decision has been made to go ahead with the construction of new hubs. That could change. “The hub concept referred to in this report is just one of many ideas being examined at the time to enhance our capabilities up in the North,” said Navy Lt. Greg Menzies. The report is premised on the priority that the Conservative government has placed on a more rigorous defence of Canada's territorial sovereignty in the North, where countries including Russia, Denmark and the United States are currently staking their claims to land and underwater territory.
Posted 15 July 2011; 11:06:24 AM. Permalink
(Offshore Shipping Online, 11 July 2011) -- The Oil & Gas Producers Association (OGP) recently announced that eight member companies have agreed to establish a Joint Industry Programme (JIP) for Arctic Oil Spill Response Technology. The JIP will concentrate on the challenges to oil exploration in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions that are not found in more temperate areas. According to OGP Technical Director John Campbell, the JIP will focus in particular on minimising the risk of offshore spills amidst sea ice and testing the suitability of spill response resources where operators will encounter periods of darkness, extreme cold and the presence of sea ice. Overall, he said, the aim will be to improve industry capability and co-ordination in the area of Arctic oil spill response. Over an initial three year funding period, the JIP hopes to raise more than US$20 million to carry out research investigations and related field activities in areas such as dispersant use in broken ice, the fate of dispersed oil beneath ice, oil slick trajectory modelling in ice and in poor visibility conditions, tracking oil in and beneath ice, and mechanical recovery in ice-strewn waters.
Posted 12 July 2011; 11:36:21 AM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 7 July 2011) -- In the course of the next six months, we will decide where to build our six new icebreakers, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov says. Speaking at this week’s meeting in the Maritime Board in Naryan-Mar, Arctic Russia, Ivanov confirmed that the Russian Finance Ministry already has approved the costs for six new icebreakers. Three of the new vessels are to be nuclear powered, the others will have diesel engines, he said. The Deputy Premier commissioned the state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation with the task of finding the best suited shipyards for the construction. The shipbuilding corporation includes a number of Russia’s biggest and best yards, including the Sevmash and Zvezdochka yards in Severodvinsk. Ivanov did not exclude that the corporation would have to turn towards yards and expertise in Finland to accomplish the job, Vzglyad.ru reports. According to the news agency, Ivanov believes goods turnover at the Northern Sea Route could reach five million tons in the course of 2012. The new icebreakers are needed for the follow-up of the quickly expanding Arctic shipping. The Russian Transport Ministry is reportedly in the process of elaborating a new legislative bill, which will include shipping tariffs on the NSR, as well as the services provided to ships operating the route. Russia currently has six nuclear-powered icebreakers, all of them stationed at the Atomflot base in Murmansk. They are operated by Rosatomflot, a unit under the Russian nuclear power corporation Rosatom.
Posted 7 July 2011; 5:06:37 PM. Permalink
(Sweden Ministry for Trade press release, 17 May 2011) -- The Swedish Riksdag, with the Speaker acting as host, has announced that the Fifth Parliamentary Barents Conference will be held in Luleå on 19-20 May. Environmentally sustainable economic growth, industry and trade, and also infrastructure, are on the agenda. About one hundred parliamentarians from Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden will attend the conference. Minister for Trade Ewa Björling will give the opening address as representative of the Swedish Chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. The event is intended for members of national parliaments and representatives of counties and regions within the Barents region, as well as indigenous peoples' organisations and relevant organisations connected to the parliamentarians and governments. Sweden is organising the conference in its capacity as Chair of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council in 2009-2011. The previous conference - the Fourth Parliamentary Barents Conference - was held in Syktyvkar, Russia, in 2009 by the Russian State Duma.
Posted 17 May 2011; 2:40:52 PM. Permalink
(Paul Waldie/The Globe and Mail via CTV News, 14 May 2011) -- A handful of people shuffle into the community hall in Kimmirut, Nunavut, a tiny outpost on the southern coast of Baffin Island. It’s early December, and the small group shakes off the cold winter air and settles into folding chairs to hear a presentation about something completely foreign to Baffin Island – a railway. “I have never seen a railway before,” a woman named Joannie tells the gathering, according to minutes of the meeting. “Could you give a better idea of what the train will look like?” Nobody else has seen a railway on Baffin Island either. No one has built one this far north, anywhere. But now – thanks to an insatiable global demand for minerals, and climate change that has opened up northern shipping routes – a rail line across part of Baffin Island is about to become a reality. It’s also a sign of things to come.
Posted 16 May 2011; 11:59:38 AM. Permalink
(Barents Observer, 5 April 2011) -- Increased levels of radioactivity were detected in the air ventilation system, probably caused by a leak of coolant in the reactor. The incident is by Rosatomflot said to be an event on level “zero” on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Level “zero” means there are no essential threats to the people onboard or to the outside environment. The exact time of the incident is not reported, but the icebreaker is now said to be on its way back from the Yenisei river towards Murmansk. Estimated sailing time is five days so “Taimyr” will be in port in Murmansk late Sunday or early Monday. "Taimyr" will sail from Yenisei towards the Kara Sea and cross over the eastern part of the Barents Sea before sailing in the Kola bay towards Murmansk. Russia’s nuclear powered icebreaker fleet has its homeport at RTP Atomflot, in the northern part of Murmansk, the world’s largest city above the Arctic Circle with 309,000 inhabitants.
Posted 5 May 2011; 11:24:00 AM. Permalink
(Clifford Krauss/New York Times, 1 May 2011) -- SAVOONGA, Alaska — Shell Oil will present an ambitious proposal to the federal government this week, seeking permission to drill up to 10 exploratory oil wells beneath Alaska’s frigid Arctic waters. The forbidding ice-clogged region is believed to hold vast reserves of oil, potentially enough to fuel 25 million cars for 35 years. And with production in Alaska’s North Slope in steep decline, the oil industry is eager to tap new offshore wells. Shell has led the way, working for five years to convince regulators, environmentalists, Native Alaskans and several courts that it could manage the process safely, protect polar bears and other wildlife, safeguard air quality for residents and respond quickly to any spill in the region. But BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster a year ago put a chill on new offshore drilling. Shell’s renewed application will pose a test for President Obama, who promised to put safety first after the BP spill. But he has also reiterated his support for offshore drilling amid voter worries about rising gasoline prices. Environmental groups say a spill in the Arctic’s inaccessible waters could be even more catastrophic than the Gulf of Mexico accident. Republicans, meanwhile, are threatening to excoriate the president for turning his back on energy security if he says no to Shell. “Americans are reeling from staggering prices at the pump,” said Representative Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “So the president has to justify to the American people why we are not replacing Saudi Arabian oil imports with U.S.-produced oil.” Whatever the administration decides, it will anger somebody. “If the Obama administration approves drilling in the Arctic, it will demonstrate that they have learned nothing from the gulf spill,” said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is suing to stop Shell.
Posted 1 May 2011; 11:48:38 PM. Permalink
(Sveriges Radio, 19 April 2011) -- Plans continue for the moving and rebuilding the northern Swedish mining community of Kiruna — since the vast network of tunnels under the streets have made life there shaky — and there are plans to dig even more mine shafts in the search for that valuable iron ore. But hopes of local politicians and the mining company leaders to rip down instead of to move old historic buildings have sparked some high-level protests. A highly unusual and costly measure to be sure to move and rebuild a whole town — and local politicians and the state owned LKAB mining company making profits for the last 120 years are counting the kronor. Both have jointly appealed to the government to remove the cultural stamp of preservation for the town’s historic buildings – arguing that it would be cheaper to build brand new. But some leaders of Swedish organizations defending the historic buildings have appealed in the prestigious Stockholm newspaper Svenska Dagbladet to save the structures: the city hall with its high rectangular clock tower – not just a home base for politicians but a gathering place for the whole community, the central train station – the hub of tracks bringing in the workers and settlers to this once sparsely populated region and removing the iron ore to ports and factories around the world; a beautiful and pomp-filled settlement of 1895 – once the home of the company boss – and now a museum and conference center. Kerstin Westerlund Bjurström is the chairperson of the Swedish section of the international council on monuments and sites – explaining why she co-signed the appeal. in Kiruna, the town’s head architect Tomas Nylund is diplomatic in his position balancing between the will of his bosses the politicians and those wanting to save the historic past.
Posted 19 April 2011; 2:50:58 PM. Permalink
(Yamal News, 13 April 2011) -- The modern multifunctional port Sabetta will be built on Yamal peninsula. This information was given by the first deputy governor of Yamal Vladimir Vladimirov in the course of the working trip to the settlement Seyakha (Yamalskiy district). By the information given in the press-service of the governor of Yamal, Vladimir Vladimirov conducted the conference with the head of Yamalskiy district Andrey Nesterouk, the head of the settlement Seyakha Igor Okotetto and the deputy chairperson of the administration of "NOVATEK" Yevgeniy Kot. The sides discussed questions of assistance to building of the port Sabetta on Yamal peninsula. The necessity of this building is stipulated with a decision not to bring shipment of liquefied gas farther to the north of the peninsula but to tie it to extractive fields. For realization of this project "NOVATEK" and the government of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug are to conduct bottom dredging on the waterway of Ob Estuary. The port Sabetta can become the key link in the scheme of transportation of not only liquefied gas from Yamal, but also products of fish and venison processing. By the words of Vladimir Vladimirov, if it will be possible to come out to the world level, without doubts, cargoes from Seyakha and Sabetta will go both to Europe and Asia.
Posted 17 April 2011; 11:57:56 AM. Permalink
(Andrew C. Revkin/Dot Earth, New York Times, 10 March 2011) -- The Navy, which has long seen security issues intensifying in a warming world, commissioned a study by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences to provide an independent assessment, and the results, focused on six areas for “naval leadership action,” are in. ... "In response to the measured and projected effects of climate change, U.S. naval forces should begin now to strengthen capabilities in the Arctic, prepare for more frequent humanitarian missions, and analyze potential vulnerabilities of seaside bases and facilities, says a new report by the National Research Council. Although the ultimate consequences of future climate change remain uncertain, many effects such as melting sea ice in the Arctic and rising sea levels are already under way and require U.S. naval monitoring and action."
Posted 31 March 2011; 3:16:35 PM. Permalink
(BarentsObserver, 3 March 2011) -- The new railway line connecting the Yamal Peninsula with the rest of the Russian railway grid is declared open to regular traffic. Regular operation of the 572-km long railroad to its terminal point – the Karskaya station – was launched in February 15. The line connects major regional installations like the Bovanenkovo gas field with national key infrastructure. The Obskaya-Bovanenkovo railway line will enable Gazprom to easily ship huge quantities of goods and construction materials to its field development sites in Yamal. "The opening of this railway will facilitate all-year-round, quick, cost efficient and not-weather-dependent transport of goods and personnel to the fields in Yamal under the harsh Arctic conditions," a press release from Gazprom reads. Unline other Russian railway lines, the Obskaya-Bovanenkovo line is owned by Gazprom. As previously reported, the Russian Railways have been invited to take over the line, but has shown little interest. In addition to railway and field development in Yamal, Gazprom is also investing in the laying of the Bovanenkovo-Ukhta gas pipeline.
Posted 3 March 2011; 10:18:26 PM. Permalink
(Andrew E. Kramer and Clifford Krauss/New York Times, 16 February 2011) -- The Arctic Ocean is a forbidding place for oil drillers. But that is not stopping Russia from jumping in — or Western oil companies from eagerly following. Russia, where onshore oil reserves are slowly dwindling, last month signed an Arctic exploration deal with the British petroleum giant BP, whose offshore drilling prospects in the United States were dimmed by the Gulf of Mexico disaster last year. Other Western oil companies, recognizing Moscow’s openness to new ocean drilling, are now having similar discussions with Russia. New oil from Russia could prove vital to world supplies in coming decades, now that it has surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer, and as long as global demand for oil continues to rise. But as the offshore Russian efforts proceed, the oil companies will be venturing where other big countries ringing the Arctic Ocean — most notably the United States and Canada — have been wary of letting oil field development proceed, for both safety and environmental reasons. ... The Arctic holds one-fifth of the world’s undiscovered, recoverable oil and natural gas, the United States Geological Survey estimates. According to a 2009 report by the Energy Department, 43 of the 61 significant Arctic oil and gas fields are in Russia. The Russian side of the Arctic is particularly rich in natural gas, while the North American side is richer in oil. While the United States and Canada balk, other countries are clearing Arctic space for the industry. Norway, which last year settled a territorial dispute with Russia, is preparing to open new Arctic areas for drilling. Last year Greenland, which became semi-autonomous from Denmark in 2009, allowed Cairn Energy to do some preliminary drilling. Cairn, a Scottish company, is planning four more wells this year, while Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Shell are also expected to drill in the area over the next few years. But of the five countries with Arctic Ocean coastline, Russia has the most at stake in exploring and developing the region. “Russia is one of the fundamental building blocks in world oil supply,” said Daniel Yergin, the oil historian and chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. “It has a critical role in the global energy balance. The Arctic will be one of the critical factors in determining how much oil Russia is producing in 15 years and exporting to the rest of the world.”
Posted 18 February 2011; 2:49:51 PM. Permalink
(Chris Windeyer/Nunatsiaq Online, 14 February 2011) -- Ottawa needs to step up to help Inuit deal with the potential boom in shipping through Canada’s Arctic waters, the president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Cathy Towtongie, said Feb. 14 at the Baffin Mayor’s Forum in Iqaluit. “Our communities are the basis of Canada’s presence in the North,” Towtongie said. Towtongie said the lack of basic marine infrastructure makes it impossible to respond quickly to spills or shipping accidents, while hampering the ability of hunters to travel or even protect their boats from damage. “In most cases our boats are not even sheltered by basic breakwaters.” At the same time, the prospect of commercial shipping through the Northwest Passage offers not only the spectre of maritime disasters, but also the more routine threat of leaks and the discharge of bilge water from ships plying Arctic waters, Towtongie said. Ottawa has put up the money for one small craft harbour in Nunavut, at Pangnirtung, but various municipal and territorial plans for marine improvements languish without action. And the Canadian Coast Guard has distributed oil cleanup kits to Nunavut hamlets, but those are designed to handle only small, localized spills. Meanwhile, the closest large port with the ability to handle major marine incidents is St. John’s. “Right at this point, Nunavut is not prepared,” she said. Towtongie said it’s time to convene a conference to create a marine transportation strategy for Nunavut.
Posted 15 February 2011; 3:49:22 PM. Permalink
(Josh Wingrove/Globe and Mail, 14 February 2011) -- However high you think your grocery bills are, they’re bound to be worse in Arctic Bay – a standard jug of cranberry cocktail sells there for $38.99, eight times more than it would in Southern Canada. The remote Nunavut hamlet has seen food prices spike in recent months after the federal government’s scrapping of its old Food Mail program that subsidized shipments of most foods and some hygiene products to remote northern communities. That program expired in October. Now, as supplies run out, new stock is arriving on shelves at unsubsidized prices – the juice, $29.39 for Cheez Whiz, $27.79 for a tub of margarine, $19.49 for a brick of cheese. Arctic Bay (pop. 750) has now opened its first food bank, while its territorial MLA questions how the new program will help his constituency. “In my opinion, these prices are way too high,” MLA Ronald Elliott said in an interview, adding: “For communities that are already hit with high unemployment and where lots of people are on social assistance, it makes you wonder how people are going to make ends meet.” The new federal program is called Nutrition North and only subsidizes what Ottawa considers healthy foods, while some hygiene products will receive a lower subsidy. Both become effective April 1. Billed as more “cost effective,” Nutrition North kicks in on April 1 and has been championed by Health Minister (and Nunavut MP) Leona Aglukkaq. When Mr. Elliott began speaking out about his “major concerns” late last week, Ottawa moved swiftly to defend its new program. “These prices are not a result of the Nutrition North Canada program,” Indian Affairs minister John Duncan said in a weekend statement. They do, however, appear to be the result of terminating its predecessor program. Food Mail allowed a long list of eligible foods and hygiene products to be shipped at 80 cents per kilogram. The unsubsidized price is now about $13 per kilogram to ship to Arctic Bay, according to the local economic development officer. Northern Stores – the region’s foremost retailer – says its air freight price has now gone up six fold in some cases (in winter, food must be flown into the community). The price increases that have sparked consumer complaints are for recently delivered items.
Posted 15 February 2011; 3:26:38 PM. Permalink
(Alister Doyle/Reuters Environment, 25 January 2011) -- TROMSOE, Norway, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Russia predicted on Tuesday a surge in voyages on an Arctic short-cut sea route in 2011 as a thaw linked to climate change opens the region even more to shipping and oil and mining companies. High metals and oil prices, linked to rising demand from China and other emerging economies, is helping to spur interest in the Arctic and the route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as an alternative to travelling via the Suez canal. "In 2011 the shipping on the Northern Sea Route is going to increase significantly," Mikhail Belkin, assistant director of Russia's state-owned Rosatomflot, told a conference on "Arctic Frontiers" in Tromsoe, north Norway. He said that Rosatomflot, which sends one of its nine atomic-powered ice-breakers to accompany each trip in case of ice, has received 15 applications to accompany voyages across the Arctic in 2011, against four trips in 2010. "The potential savings are too large to be ignored," said Felix Tschudi, whose shipping group chartered the MV Nordic Barents in 2010 to carry 40,000 tonnes of iron ore for Northern Iron Ltd (NFE.AX) from Norway to China. Tschudi said that the voyage was about 6,500 nautical miles (12,040 kilometres), about half the distance of the journey via Suez and saved 17-1/2 days as well as fuel. Icebergs meant high insurance costs but there are no pirates, unlike off Somalia. He said Rosatomflot charged about $200,000 to accompany the ship, more than fees on the Suez canal. It was the first commercial vessel on the route that was not owned by Russia and travelled to and from non-Russian ports.
Posted 26 January 2011; 1:27:31 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 17 January 2011) -- The Canadian Polar Commission wants to become a more prominent player in polar affairs, including Arctic issues such as research and economic development, says its new board chairman. Bernard Funston said the national commission wants to be at the centre of activity in Canada's Arctic such as scientific research, tourism, mining exploration and more. "A more active and relevant polar commission is what we're aiming for," Funston told CBC News. The Canadian Polar Commission is a federal advisory agency set up in 1991 to promote, monitor and disseminate research in the polar regions. Funston and nine new directors were appointed in November to the polar commission's board. The commission had been without a board for about two years. The board, which held its first meeting earlier this month, includes former N.W.T. premier Nellie Cournoyea, Arctic sovereignty expert Rob Huebert, and Harry Winston Diamond Corp. executive Robert Gannicott. Funston said the board is developing a strategy with clear objectives for the commission. One of its first goals is to open at least one office in Canada's northern territories, he added. "We're going to re-establish the northern office — at least one northern office and perhaps more," he said. "We're looking at how to do this effectively and broadly." Funston said the commission board wants to develop its international contacts, set research priorities and bring people together to discuss issues related to northern research, aboriginal knowledge and economic development. Huebert said he would like to see the Canadian Polar Commission play a similar role as the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, which helps set that country's polar agenda. "If you look at the legislation, it [the Canadian Polar Commission] was given probably just as much power as the American polar commission," said Huebert, associate director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary. "I think that we can do a lot in moving the whole agenda for how we approach polar science and co-ordination." Funston said the United States has already expressed interest in collaborating with Canada on mutual areas of interest.
Posted 17 January 2011; 4:10:28 PM. Permalink
(Andrew Mayeda/Postmedia News via Montreal Gazette, 13 January 2011) -- OTTAWA — The Harper government has put on hold its search for bidders to operate and maintain the chain of early-warning radars that guards against foreign incursions into Canadian and U.S. airspace in the Far North, Postmedia News has learned. The North Warning System, a chain of 47 unmanned radars that lines the Arctic coast from Alaska to Labrador, is operated and maintained by Nasittuq Corp. under a 10-year, $624-million contract that ends Sept. 30 this year. Industry sources say a number of Canadian companies and multinational defence contractors have expressed interest in bidding on the next contract, including Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin and Raytheon, the U.S. defence giant that became embroiled in the controversy over whether Canada should join the United States' missile-defence shield. But the Canadian government, which originally hoped to award a new contract this April, has shelved the bidding process as it consults with aboriginal groups, as required under land-claim settlements. The consultation process is expected to take months or even years. The delay casts uncertainty over the long-term future of a system that some experts say remains a key component of the joint efforts of Canada and the United States to keep watch over the Arctic, a region that is growing in economic and geopolitical importance as the retreating ice cap opens the door to more shipping traffic and resource development.
Posted 14 January 2011; 2:30:17 PM. Permalink
(Atle Staalesen/BarentsObserver, 12 January 2011) -- A new international airport is under planning in Vilhelmina, northern Sweden. The new airport will be named “Destination South Lapland” and aims at 30000 passengers per year, airport director Johan Hagelberg told newspaper Västerbottens-Kuriren. The new airport will be based near the existing Sagadals Airport, a smaller facility which currently handles 14000 passengers per year. There is a rapidly increasing demand for airport services in Vilhelmina and the nearby municipalities of Åsele, Dorotea and Strömsund, Hagelberg told the newspaper. The possibility to take down bigger aircrafts and connect with other countries is vital, he adds. Charter flights from England, France, Germany, as well as other Nordic countries are expected to give local tourism a boost. Today, tourists will normally have to go through the airports of Umeå or Skellefteå to get to Vilhelmina. The Västerbotten county also has an airport in Hemavan, near the border to Norway. An estimated 200 million SEK will have to be invested in the new airport. That money is however not yet arranged for, Hagelberg admits.
Posted 13 January 2011; 2:00:31 AM. Permalink