Iced-in cargo ship makes it to Resolute Bay after 4 day delay

An unusual amount of ice and a swamped coast guard made shipping in the Arctic more difficult this year.

Cargo ship anchored about 18 kilometres from hamlet for 4 days; managed to unload Wednesday

The cargo ship was delayed by 4 days. The coast guard says it didn't receive a request for ice breaking services to get into Resolute Bay. (Submitted)

A cargo ship made it to Resolute Bay, Nunavut this weekend after being anchored for four days due to thick sea ice.

The Rosaire A. Desgagnés dropped its anchor on Saturday about 18 kilometres from the Nunavut hamlet. It sat there until Wednesday when it was unloaded.

The success was likely welcome news for Waguih Rayes, general manager of Desgagnés Transarctik Inc., which oversees several Arctic ships as the managing partner for Nunavut Sealink and Supply Inc.

An unusual amount of ice and a swamped coast guard made Arctic shipping more difficult than usual this year, according to Rayes. He told CBC that he was recently on a morning phone briefing with Canadian Coast Guard representatives, and that the agency said it is "busy everywhere… [and] they don't have enough boats to provide the level of service required."

Lauren Solski, spokesperson for the Canadian Coast Guard, said in an email that they received no request this year for ice breaking services to get into Resolute Bay.

Other priorities

Solski said the agency can offer help with ice breaking so ships can get to their destination, but when extensive ice is already in the bay where a boat is trying to offload, "cargo operations cannot take place."  

Solski also wrote that while supplying Northern communities was important, search and rescue work and environmental response missions both "take priority" over ice breaking and escorting cargo ships.

A number of search and rescue efforts have demanded the coast guard's help in the Arctic Ocean this year, including the rescue of passengers on the Akademik Ioffe.

A Coast Guard icebreaker was stationed near the Akademik Ioffe for days after the passengers were offloaded, but has since left.

A spokesperson for the coast guard says search and rescue work and environmental response missions take priority over cargo ships. (Submitted)

'Floating chunks of steel'

Arctic and marine consultant Joe Spears has been following the conditions. He said the ice is coming from near Greenland, where it has broken up and been pushed into Canada's Arctic Archipelago with tides and winds.

Some of these chunks ice are like "floating chunks of steel," he said.

"The thickness and concentration of ice is worse than we have ever seen since we started servicing the communities [in 2008]" Rayes said.

Rayes said that the conditions have had a spillover effect, slowing down past and future cargo operations this year. A boat to Iqaluit this summer was approximately 10 days late, and delays on this sealift's route will affect the schedule for its next voyages in the fall.