Northern Policy & Development
Current research projects (2019-2023)
Mitigating Arctic Shipping Risks Through Improved Prediction of Conditions Leading to Besetments in Pressured Ice in the Hudson Strait
Climate change has led to decreased sea ice extent, increasing maritime access in the Canadian Arctic. This has led to increased economic opportunities related to Arctic natural resource development. Ice-breaking ships service operational mines in the eastern Canadian Arctic region year-round. The most significant challenge facing these vessels is ‘ice under pressure’, which is very difficult to detect, observe, or predict. Ship captains are often unaware of these ice conditions until their vessels become beset (i.e. stuck). The aim of this study is to work in direct partnership with the National Research Council and a national Arctic shipping operator (Fednav) to improve understanding of the factors leading to ship besetment in pressured ice. This will be done through a case study in the Hudson Strait, Canada. Vessels in the Hudson Strait are on average best for 40% of their total voyage time. Ship besetment can create costly delays (up to 60K per day), can impact communities, and can pose significant risk of spills and environmental degradation due to additional fuel consumption and potential for shore strikes and groundings as vessels move with the ice pack.
To improve information provided to ships on ice conditions, and thereby lessen the risk of besetment, this study will investigate the use of a pressured ice model as a downscaling tool to provide information at the small scales required for shipping. Novel experiments will be carried out comparing cases when a ship has and has not become beset when transiting through Hudson Strait with a range of atmospheric forcing and ice initialization procedures. This will allow better understanding of meteorological and ice conditions leading to besetment.
Evaluation of the pressured ice model will allow for safer and more reliable shipping not only in Hudson Strait, but also in other regions where year-round shipping is planned. This project is aligned with the objectives of the World Meteorlogical associations’ ‘Year of Polar Prediction’. Students trained throught this project will be exposed to both traditional and experiential learning, through participation in ship transits.