Safe Navigation & Environmental Protection

OFI Large Research Module N

About the research

The Northwest Atlantic and Canadian Arctic Gateway are undergoing fundamental change. Arctic sea ice is melting due to climate change and as a result, this region of the ocean is becoming more accessible to summer commercial and recreational shipping, with consequential impacts on navigation routes.  

While increased shipping is beneficial to trade, resource development and scientific studies, it also results in adverse impacts. This includes air pollution, risks for public health, greenhouse gas emissions, potential conflicts with other ocean users, safety of life at sea concerns, potentially costly marine pollution, disruption of marine life from anthropogenic noise and potential disruption of Inuit uses of ice and marine areas. 

This research project explores a range of tools to help mitigate risks and adverse impacts from shipping and identify respectful approaches for safeguarding Inuit interests. It will also contribute to marine spatial planning, and determine how complementarities can be promoted and conflicts prevented — or managed — in shipping corridors.

This work is uniquely complex. The Northwest Atlantic and Canadian Arctic Gateway are not static and have seasonal risk patterns, including bad weather, fog and the presence —or absence — of ice. The Marine Spatial Planning component in the Canadian Arctic Gateway will be driven largely by Inuit perspectives and interests, which see the changing land-, sea-, and ice-scapes as a continuity. 

Project Update - 2018

Key areas of research:

Safety & environmental issues

  • ship emissions
  • ship noise
  • marine spill response
  • search and rescue

Assessments & tools

  • risk assessment
  • marine spatial planning assessment
  • regulatory assessment
  • marine scientific research assessment

The impact

This research is helping develop in-depth understanding of key risks, including:

  • how aerosols transport pollution from ship atmospheric emissions and potential health and environmental impacts
  • the impact of ship-generated noise in the marine ecosystem
  • search and rescue and pollution response demands from increased shipping in remote areas
  • conflicting interactions produced by increased shipping on other ocean users, most especially Inuit communities.

The project will produce a suite of risk assessment, spatial use planning and policy tools to assist Canadian regulators, shipping industry and coastal communities and facilitate allocation of scarce resources. 

The research team

This research is guided by a Research Advisory Council, whose members include Canadian Senator Charlie Watt, representatives from Transport Canada and other federal bodies, representatives from the Canadian shipping industry and Inuit leaders. The module’s collaborating researchers are experts in atmospheric and oceanographic science, engineering and social sciences including maritime law, marine management and geography.

Research partners:

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • international academic institutions including Kiel University, Université de Bretagne Occidentale and the IMO World Maritime University