Assessment of the response to TSB Recommendation M21-01
in PDF [321 KB]
Risk mitigation measures for passenger vessels operating in Canadian Arctic coastal waters
On 24 August 2018, the passenger vessel Akademik Ioffe, with 163 persons on board, ran aground on an uncharted shoal 78 nautical miles north-northwest of Kugaaruk, Nunavut. The grounding occurred while sailing through narrows in a remote area of the Canadian Arctic that was not surveyed to modern or adequate hydrographic standards, and where none of the vessel crew had ever been. The vessel ran aground at a speed of 7.6 knots before the bridge team could take evasive action; team members were not closely monitoring the echo sounders, and the steady decrease of the under-keel water depth went unnoticed for more than 4 minutes, because the echo sounders’ low water depth alarms had been turned off. The bridge team of the Akademik Ioffe considered that the narrows were safe to transit, did not expect to encounter any shoal in the area where the vessel ran aground, and consequently did not implement any additional precautions.
Multiple aeronautical search and rescue assets from the Canadian Armed Forces and maritime search and rescue assets from the Canadian Coast Guard were tasked to assist the distressed vessel. The vessel self-refloated with the flooding tide later that day, and its passengers were evacuated and transferred to the passenger vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov the next day. While no injuries were reported, the Akademik Ioffe sustained serious damage to its hull and some of the vessel’s fuel oil was released into the environment.
The Board concluded its investigation and released report M18C0225 on May 21, 2021.
TSB Recommendation M21-01 (May 2021)
The gradual retreat of sea ice in the coastal waters surrounding the Canadian Arctic Archipelago has led to a notable increase in the number of passenger-carrying vessels and, particularly, of expedition-type cruises. The decrease in sea ice coverage allows passage into areas outside of the main corridors that are less travelled or where vessels have not been before, and for which there may be limited hydrographic information, increasing the risk of encountering uncharted hazards. By 2019, only 14% of the coastal waters surrounding the Canadian Arctic Archipelago had been surveyed to modern or adequate hydrographic standards, and efforts to augment the surveys have been focused primarily on the main shipping corridors, with no timeline for completion in other areas of the Arctic.
The Canadian Arctic is vast and sparsely populated, which means that response to a marine occurrence may not occur in as timely a manner as it would in more populated areas. Even in summer, near-freezing air temperatures can prevail in some areas of the Canadian Arctic; these conditions make it challenging for survivors of a vessel abandonment.
Since 1996, there have been 3 groundings of passenger vessels and 1 of a chartered yacht in the Canadian Arctic. Although this number seems low, it is high in relation to the number of passenger voyages over this period. TSB investigations into 3 of these occurrences found that deficiencies in voyage planning or execution were significant contributing factors to the occurrences. Moreover, in the groundings of the Clipper Adventurer and the Akademik Ioffe, there was a lack of appreciation by the masters and bridge teams of the limitations of the hydrographic data on the routes they were following. According to the International Maritime Organization, voyage planning, which includes assessing, planning, executing, and monitoring the voyage, is a key mitigation strategy against the inherent risks of Arctic navigation.
The master has full discretion as to how the bridge team carries out the 4 steps in the making and execution of the vessel’s voyage plans, and needs to give bridge teams the latitude to act according to the vessel’s actual situation. It is difficult to mitigate against any weaknesses within a plan, given the discretion masters have when deciding where the vessel goes, how an assessment is carried out, and how the watchkeeping is set up. In light of this, it is critical that operators of passenger-carrying vessels operating in the Canadian Arctic adopt additional mitigation strategies to address the risks associated with their itineraries and the potential weaknesses within their voyage plans, such as vetting by a third party or sharing safe itineraries among operators. Given the limitations of current hydrographic surveys in many areas, risks related to navigation in Canadian Arctic waters will remain high for the foreseeable future, and the potential for catastrophic results related to loss of life and irreparable damage to the environment is particularly concerning.
Transport Canada regulates navigation of domestic and foreign vessels within Canada’s territorial waters, including the coastal waters surrounding the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, through the Canadian Hydrographic Service, is responsible for meeting Canada’s international obligation to provide hydrographic services; the Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for the provision of marine search and rescue resources, traffic monitoring, icebreaker assistance and diffusion of navigation safety information, among other services.
Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, combined, have the regulatory mandate to implement various risk mitigation measures to reduce the likelihood and consequences of a passenger vessel running aground in Arctic waters. These measures could include, among others:
- systematically requiring more detailed inspections of domestic and foreign-flagged passenger vessels intending to enter the Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services zone, to confirm adequate navigational practices, procedures, and equipment;
- prohibiting passenger vessels from transiting Canadian Arctic coastal waters that are not surveyed to adequate hydrographic standards, and allowing passages only within the Canadian Hydrographic Service-identified primary and secondary low impact shipping corridors;
- mandatory carriage of additional navigational aids (with suitably qualified crew to operate and maintain them) such as forward-looking sonar;
- a requirement to use a spotting craft to survey the waters ahead of the passenger vessel when transiting;
- mandatory use of supernumerary navigational experts with local knowledge of the passenger vessel’s area of operations;
- a requirement for operators to schedule itineraries so that there is always another passenger vessel in proximity to aid in case of an emergency; and
- working with operators to develop a tool or common registry for the sharing of best practices and navigational information about past, current, and proposed itineraries.
This investigation determined that operating in the Canadian Arctic has unique risks that require additional mitigation measures in order to ensure the safety of passenger vessels, and to protect the vulnerable Arctic environment. Until the coastal waters surrounding the Canadian Arctic Archipelago are adequately charted, and if alternate mitigation measures are not put in place, there is a persistent risk that vessels will make unforeseen contact with the sea bottom, putting passengers, crew, and the environment at risk.
The Board therefore recommended that
the Department of Transport, in collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, develops and implements mandatory risk mitigation measures for all passenger vessels operating in Canadian Arctic coastal waters.
TSB Recommendation M21-01
Transport Canada’s response to Recommendation M21-01 (August 2021)
Transport Canada (TC) agrees with the recommendation.
As part of TC’s work to increase safety oversight for passenger vessels in Canadian Arctic waters, the department is working to implement an enhanced oversight plan for cruise vessels entering Canada’s Arctic coastal waters, which will increase the level of monitoring and inspections by 2022. Inspections will focus on voyage/passage planning and bridge resource management. This plan will ensure that that passenger vessels meet the requirements under the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (the Polar Code) as incorporated by reference in the Arctic Shipping Safety and Pollution Prevention Regulations.
In addition, under the Paris Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Port State Control (PSC) of which Canada is a member, cruise vessels will be inspected for compliance with the Polar Code. This Inspection Campaign is scheduled to take place during the summer of 2022.
As an additional oversight measure and to increase safety awareness for voyage planning in the Arctic, TC will also disseminate a Ship Safety Bulletin (SSB) to remind stakeholders, including cruise operators, of the Navigation Safety Regulations, 2020 and of the requirement for the annual edition of Notice to Mariners (NOTMAR) to be on board all vessels in Canadian waters. The SSB will also include a notice to the marine industry and cruise operators, advising them of Transport Canada’s 2022 enhanced oversight inspection plan for passenger vessels entering Canadian Arctic waters.
The latest NOTMAR’s section on “Voyage Planning for Vessels Intending to Navigate in Canada’s Northern Waters” publication will be updated by Transport Canada prior to the SSB’s dissemination.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans-Canadian Hydrographic Service (DFO-CHS) and the Canadian Coast Guard’s Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone Regulations (CCG-NORDREG) Marine Communication Traffic Services are working with Transport Canada to explore how to effectively monitor and communicate major vessel deviations in Canadian Arctic waters.
DFO-CHS, through its technical expertise in Geographic Information System technologies, will support TC in its ability to define risk levels for planned routes for passenger vessels traveling in Canada’s northern waters in order to inform risk mitigation for passenger vessels that deviate from their standard routes in the Canadian Arctic.
In response to a request by the TSB for further information, TC sent the following response in December 2021.
|Recommended Mitigation Measure||TC Considerations||Expected Implementation Date|
|Systematically requiring more detailed inspections of domestic and foreign-flagged passenger vessels intending to enter the Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services zone, to confirm adequate navigational practices, procedures, and equipment.||Transport Canada is working on the following to address this measure:
||The inspection campaign will begin when cruise vessels enter Canadian Arctic waters in 2022|
|Prohibiting passenger vessels from transiting Canadian Arctic coastal waters that are not surveyed to adequate hydrographic standards, and allowing passages only within the Canadian Hydrographic Service-identified primary and secondary low impact shipping corridors.||Transport Canada is working on the following to address this measure:
||2022 cruise shipping season and ongoing.|
|Mandatory carriage of additional navigational aids (with suitably qualified crew to operate and maintain them) such as forward-looking sonar.||
|A requirement to use a spotting craft to survey the waters ahead of the passenger vessel when transiting.||
|Mandatory use of supernumerary navigational experts with local knowledge of the passenger vessel’s area of operations.||The following is in place to address this measure:
|A requirement for operators to schedule itineraries so that there is always another passenger vessel in proximity to aid in case of an emergency.||
|Working with operators to develop a tool or common registry for the sharing of best practices and navigational information about past, current, and proposed itineraries.||Transport Canada is working on the following to address this measure:
||Before the start of the 2022 Cruise shipping season in the Canadian Arctic and ongoing.|
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s response to Recommendation M21-01 (August 2021)
DFO and CCG agree in principle with this recommendation.
The report highlights that there are still many areas of the Canadian Arctic not yet surveyed and charted to modern hydrographic standards. Given the challenges of surveying in the Arctic, the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) has focused on opportunistically surveying waters in proposed low impact shipping corridors. It will be years before the proposed low impact shipping corridors will be adequately charted to modern standards and the pace at which these gaps can be filled depend on several factors including resources.
DFO and CCG recognize that risks in Canadian Arctic coastal waters will persist even once low impact shipping corridors are fully charted as ships may deviate from the currently proposed low impact shipping corridors.
DFO-CHS and CCG are working with TC to explore a number of risk mitigation measures for passenger vessels, including the formation of a task team on how to effectively monitor and communicate major vessel deviations in Canadian Arctic waters.
DFO-CHS, through its technical expertise and Geographic Information System technologies, will support TC in its ability to define risk levels for planned routes for passenger vessels in Canada’s northern waters in order to inform risk mitigation measures for passenger vessels that deviate from their standard routes in the Canadian Arctic.
In response to a request by the TSB for further information, DFO and CCG sent the following response in December 2021.
Canadian Hydrographic Services (CHS) will continue to work with other Arctic countries to document chart adequacy in the Arctic and raise awareness of risks. On November 10, 2021, Canada, through the CHS, rotated in as Chair of the International Hydrographic Organization’s Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission (ARHC). The ARHC brings together hydrographic offices from Arctic nations to improve regional coordination of hydrographic work, share best practices, enhance exchange of information and foster training and technical assistance. At the most recent meeting, Canada shared the results of the Transportation Safety Board Investigation Report on the Akademik Ioffe. In May 2021, the ARHC partnered with the Arctic Council to publish a Joint Statement on Hydrography in the Arctic Region to highlight the importance of hydrography in the Arctic region to safe and sustainable maritime navigation. ARHC will be working with the Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group to support Arctic maritime safety and the protection of the Arctic marine environment. Of note, there will be efforts to develop and disseminate information along the lines of the Arctic Navigation Risk summary bulletin issued by ARHC in 2017.
The Canadian Coast Guard also continues to expand its commitment to support Arctic maritime safety and the protection of the Arctic marine environment. Coast Guard icebreakers provide safe escorts to ships through ice-covered waters, conducting hydrographic surveys, maintaining navigational aids, and supporting Arctic science programs in addition to search and rescue activities.
With an extended Arctic season that allows for Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers to be in the Arctic earlier and later in the season, it now deploys up to eight Coast Guard icebreakers from June to November to support maritime safety, vessel traffic, and operational and program commitments. In addition to search and rescue, all Coast Guard icebreakers working in the Arctic are equipped and ready to deal with emergency issues such as marine pollution incidents. Preparedness and readiness activities such as contingency planning, personnel training and exercising¸ as well as liaison with our response partners are ongoing throughout the year.
The Canadian Coast Guard also provides daily updates on ice conditions and icebreaker operations to industry and partners throughout the shipping season. This information is essential to a successful marine shipping season in the Arctic.
The support provided by Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) Centre in Iqaluit is key to keeping northern waters safe. The Iqaluit MCTS Centre provides communication services in the Arctic including: safety radio-communication services; vessel traffic services and regulation; information that supports marine activities; screening of vessels entering Canadian waters; a 24/7 commercial marine telephone call service; performs Alert and Warning Network (AWN) desk duties; and provides Navigational Warning services.
As part of work supporting the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS), five Coast Guard vessels have the capabilities to support seabed mapping. Through state-of-the-art multi-beam systems, hydrographers are increasing the amount of seafloor surveyed in the Arctic. Hydrographic data acquired will allows the CHS to produce and update nautical charts and publications for Arctic waters, contributing directly to safer navigation in the region. A total of 33,650 km2 was surveyed in the Arctic in 2021, through the use of Coast Guard vessels, contracted surveys and an autonomous surface vessel.
Further to the search and rescue capabilities of Coast Guard icebreakers, the Canadian Coast Guard’s Inshore Rescue Boat station in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut provides maritime search and rescue services and has completed its fourth season of operation. In addition, in 2017 as part of the Oceans Protection Plan, the Canadian Coast Guard launched the Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer Pilot Program. This program provides Indigenous communities with funding to purchase boats and equipment to build up their on-water search and rescue capacity.
In May 2021, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard announced the construction of two Polar icebreakers. Both new Polar icebreakers will have capacity and ability beyond that of Canada’s current largest icebreaker, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent. With their enhanced capabilities, these larger, more powerful Polar icebreakers will enable the Coast Guard to conduct year-round operations in Canada’s Arctic. Their greater endurance will ensure they can operate at higher latitudes for longer periods, and will allow the fleet to better respond to maritime emergencies in the Arctic.
TSB assessment of the response to Recommendation M21-01 (March 2022)
Transport Canada (TC) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) indicate that they agree and agree in principle, respectively, with the recommendation. The responses received from TC and DFO indicate that they are working together to address the risks of passenger vessel traffic in the Canadian Arctic.
Transport Canada states that it will review voyage plans for compliance with the Polar Code and work with NORDREG to monitor any major deviations while these vessels are in Canadian Waters. Additionally, the department will update the latest Notice to Mariners’ section on “Voyage Planning for Vessels Intending to Navigate in Canada’s Northern Waters” and will publish a Ship Safety Bulletin reminding operators of the requirements and informing them of the enhanced oversight.
TC also mentions it will enhance oversight of Arctic cruise vessels through an Inspection Campaign which will begin in 2022. This Campaign will prioritize the implementation of the Polar Code, including appropriate navigational practices, procedures, and equipment, on cruise ships in the Canadian Arctic. Furthermore, TC indicates that it co-chairs the Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) working group which facilitates the exchange of information and best practices for various Arctic shipping topics. Finally, TC plans to promote development of mitigation measures from within the industry, notably through the PAME forum. Although some of these measures are not new, such as inspections under Port State Control, the Board acknowledges that their enhancement may contribute in reducing the identified safety deficiency.
The Board notes TC’s plans to conduct enhanced inspections under the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control. Given that the Akademik Ioffe was inspected by TC for the purpose of issuing a Coasting Trade Licence prior to the occurrence voyage, it is unclear whether additional inspections, as well as the coordination of prior inspections, will be sufficient to identify weaknesses in vessels’ risk assessment processes. Review of voyage plans could provide an opportunity for TC to identify areas of risk, and require mitigation of those risks through the exercising of powers under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. Other risk mitigation measures proposed by TC will be limited to best practices and guidelines, falling short of the mandatory risk mitigation measures that the Board has recommended.
The Board recognizes that TC has planned some initial steps to address the risks posed by passenger vessel travel in the Canadian Arctic. However, many of the measures proposed by TC are voluntary best practices and do not seem to be under consideration for becoming mandatory. The Board is concerned that until some of these risk mitigation measures are made mandatory, it is unclear how the underlying safety deficiency will be successfully mitigated.
The Board considers TC’s response to Recommendation M21-01 to be Satisfactory in Part.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, including the Canadian Coast Guard, has described the types of actions it will take to support TC in addressing this recommendation. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, through the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS), will define risk levels for planned routes in northern waters, to help inform risk mitigation measures. Over time, the expansion of technology to support seabed mapping will improve the reliability of bathymetric data and provide mariners with more accurate information to better plan their voyages. The CHS’ work with PAME is also expected to expand awareness of the risks of travel in poorly or uncharted waters, notably with the proposed publication of a document like the Arctic Navigation Risk summary bulletin issued by the International Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission in 2017.
From the Canadian Coast Guard, the expansion of search and rescue capacity in the Arctic will help to improve response times to Arctic occurrences. Once delivered, the Coast Guard’s growing fleet will also be capable of providing year-round operations and a better response to maritime emergencies in the Arctic.
The Board acknowledges the work that Fisheries and Oceans Canada is doing to provide better quality navigation data, as well as the expansion of Coast Guard resources in the Arctic. Given that DFO’s role is not regulatory in this area, these measures can be expected to reduce some of the risks posed by operating in the Arctic environment.
Therefore, the Board considers DFO’s response to Recommendation M21-01 to show Satisfactory Intent.
The actions that TC and DFO have described do not implement mandatory risk assessment measures. Until these risk mitigation measures are made mandatory, it is unclear how the underlying safety deficiency will be successfully mitigated. Therefore, the Board considers the response to Recommendation M21-01 to be Satisfactory in Part.
Next TSB action
Further actions to be taken by each department to address risk mitigation still require development. The TSB will continue to follow up with Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to understand the additional risk mitigation measures that will be put in place, and the Board will evaluate additional measures when they are proposed.
This deficiency file is Active.