Nova Scotia

Underwater survey planned for Strait of Canso

The Canadian Hydrographic Service plans to survey waters around Port Hawkesbury by 2021 in order to update charts for boaters and shippers.

Port Hawkesbury deemed one of 23 'high-risk' ports in Canada in need of new charts

Up to four Canadian Hydrographic Service vessels are being converted to allow them to operate autonomously and perform underwater surveys to update charts. (Canadian Hydrographic Service)

Boaters and shippers in the Strait of Canso will be getting new charts soon.

The Canadian Hydrographic Service has received $110 million over five years under the federal Oceans Protection Plan to survey waterways and update charts in 23 "high-risk" ports, and Port Hawkesbury is the only Nova Scotia port on the list.

The federal government said charting in the Strait of Canso will fill in gaps and update water levels, tides and currents. It will also provide high-resolution electronic navigation charts and navigational products for mariners.

Tim Gilfoy, CEO of the Strait of Canso Superport Corporation, said traffic in the area includes pleasure craft, fishing and cargo ships, small cruise ships and larger vessels carrying petroleum products and stone aggregate.

No complaints

He said he hasn't heard complaints or concerns about charts from pilot boats or other vessel operators.

"I've not heard anything from any of those groups," Gilfoy said. "I suspect this is the federal government being a bit proactive in updating charts in high-traffic ports, such as Port Hawkesbury."

The area is also the site of at least one proposed liquefied natural gas facility.

"It's a fairly busy port," said Gilfoy. "The last nautical survey that was done here I believe was in 2004 or so. It's good to have that updated just so that any of the ships that are traversing the area have up-to-date data."

Survey to be done by 2021

Thirteen of the designated high-risk ports are in British Columbia and seven are in Quebec. In addition to Port Hawkesbury, Charlottetown and Saint John are the only other ports in Atlantic Canada slated for new charts.

Port Hawkesbury is scheduled to be surveyed by 2021.

Federal spokeswoman Carole Saindon said while the ports are labelled high-risk, updating survey information is routine.

"These ports are considered 'high-priority' due to insufficient or outdated hydrographic data, as well as changing shipping patterns and usages, which require new surveys for modern marine navigation," she said in an email.

New hydrographic technology in 2015 spotted an old shipwreck in Pictou Harbour that had never been seen before using older equipment. (Canadian Hydrographic Service)

New charts were created for the port of Sydney in 2014, although navigation aids such as channel markers and range lights have never been fixed for the new channel that was dredged in 2011.

Saindon said the Canadian Hydrographic Service will create new charts using multibeam sonar surveys, laser airborne hydrography techniques, automated hydrographic surface vehicles and satellite-derived bathymetry — also known as depth measurement. 


Tom Ayers


Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at