Icy thoughts

CBC News is running an interesting report (below) regarding the bleak future of Canadian Coast Guard in the Arctic. Equipment and manpower shortages abound, crunch time is well pass if we are to assert any kind of sovereignty. Oddly enough, the US government is, right as we speak, being brieffed on a similar matter, but south of the border, read the article here from the Globe and Mail. Another view, this one from south of the border with some interesting comments from the gentlemen representing Alaska in the US federal government.

Arctic icebreakers aging, new ones to cost billions: Coast Guard

Billions of dollars will be needed to replace Canada's aging fleet of Arctic icebreakers within the next decade, Canadian Coast Guard official Gary Sidock told CBC News.

Many of the seven icebreakers and three river-class vessels that ply northern waters from late June to early October are near retirement, said Sidock, who is the acting director general, fleet, for the Canadian Coast Guard in Ottawa.

The vessels are used to open shipping lanes, for scientific studies and for search and rescue operations.

Depending on the model, the vessels can cost as much as $500 million and take up to 10 years to build, so Canada should get its order in soon, said Sidock.

"Perhaps not immediately, but fairly shortly," he said. "The ice-breaking fleet will have to be replaced and that can be a phased replacement. That is absolutely very much on our minds."

Crew shortage another concern

With many crew members headed for retirement, the Coast Guard is also concerned there may be a shortage of people qualified to operate the ships.

Michael Gardiner, the Coast Guard's assistant commissioner for the central and Arctic region, said there is a lot of competition for well-trained people in Canada and abroad.

"Canadian marine officers are considered to be very competent, well-trained, culturally sensitive and are sought after by the world merchant marine fleets," he said.

He hopes they can soon recruit young graduates who can train under the experienced crew members before they retire.

Canada has one heavy icebreaker, the Louis St. Laurent, along with four intermediate ships. It has one light icebreaker, one dedicated science icebreaker and three river-class vessels.