North

Cruise ship traffic a threat to Arctic waters, U.S. expert warns

An American marine shipping expert says eastern Arctic waterways should be protected from a growing influx of cruise ship traffic.

An American marine shipping expert says eastern Arctic waterways should be protected from a growing influx of cruise ship traffic.

Arctic cruise ship traffic has jumped from 50 ships in 2004 to 250 ships in 2007, with the most increases in Nunavut and Greenland, said Walter Nadolny, an associate professor in marine transportation at the State University of New York's Maritime College.

With even more cruise ships expected this summer, Nadolny said, he's worried about what those vessels may be bringing with them, including invasive foreign marine species and ship emissions that could harm fragile Arctic areas.

The problems include "oil emissions from bilge water, sewage emissions from sewage treatment plants, [and] ballast emissions as far as conveying invasive species up here from other areas in the world, which to me is a huge threat that nobody sees right now," Nadolny told CBC News at a symposium in Iqaluit this week on adapting to climate change.

Nadolny said vessels can take on ballast water in countries or regions far from the Arctic, which means foreign species could be brought up north that would push local species out.

Treaty needed

The Arctic should be declared a special area, he said, with strict safety measures and restrictions on where ships can go, how fast they can go, and what they can discharge into Arctic waters.

"We need to work toward an Arctic treaty. It may be a 10- or 15-year process. However, you have the mechanisms in place to already say, 'Wait a minute, let's call this a special area,'" he said.

"If you want to come through here, we want you to have the best pollution control technology on your engines, the best pollution control technology on your sewage discharges, the best plan for reducing impacts for ballast water."

Iqaluit resident Aaju Peter, who has worked on a cruise ship, said the Arctic cruise ship industry is growing too quickly, and he agreed that Canada needs to take a closer look at effects on the region.

"We would like to pass legislation that safeguards what kind of ships and the number of passengers, the areas that they'll be going, because we don't want to disturb wildlife, we don't want to disrupt traditional sites [and] heritage sites," she said.

This year, 26 cruise ship trips have been scheduled to stop in Nunavut from July through September, with upwards of 100 to 180 passengers on board each ship.

The vessels will stop in a number of communities, including Iqaluit, Pangnirtung, Cape Dorset, Pond Inlet, Cambridge Bay, Resolute and Grise Fiord.

now