The Canadian government’s ability to track foreign vessels through the Arctic is woefully inadequate and the situation may get worse, according to a new report by the Auditor General of Canada.
Domestic surveillance of the region is incomplete, data that’s collected is insufficient, and there is no effective way of sharing information on maritime traffic, the watchdog said. Meanwhile, new icebreakers, aircraft, satellites and infrastructure required to fix these problems have been delayed to the point where some equipment likely will be retired before it can be replaced.
Category Archives: Canada
Photos to Share, Report of Collision and Two Canadian AOPS in Key West
Couple of photographs of interest.
First is a photo of a ship I served on, USCGC Confidence (now based in Florida instead of Kodiak). The photo is from a Miami Herald report, “Coast Guard says migrant boat collided with cutter off the coast of Haiti.” (apparently very minor) Confidence is about 56 years old and still doing the job. I see four RHIBs in the photo and Connie has only two. No indication where the other two came from.
The second is from Facebook. What are two Canadian Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) doing in Key West? One has been doing drug interdiction with the US Coast Guard.
“CANADIAN COAST GUARD ICEBREAKER MODERNISATION CONTRACT AWARDED TO QUEBEC SHIPYARD” –Baird Maritime
CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent alongside USCGC Healy
Baird Maritime reports Quebec shipbuilder Chantier Davie Canada has been awarded a contract to complete a service life extension program on Canada’s largest, most powerful, and oldest icebreaker, CCGS Louis S St-Laurent.
This ship entered service in 1969, about six and a half years earlier than Polar Star. Reportedly the modifications will be conducted in three phases in 2022,2024, and 2027.
The Canadian Coast Guard rates the ship a heavy icebreaker, but by current USCG standards, she is a medium icebreaker. Her size, power (27,000 HP), diesel electric propulsion, and large lab spaces, make her more similar to Healy than to the Polar Star.
The ship has already been extensively modified. In a major refit 1987-1992 the hull was lengthened about 24 feet. A new bow was fitted and her original steam turbines were replaced with diesels. A bubbler system was added and a new hangar forward of the flight deck replaced the previous below deck hangar and elevator system.
The ship has a crew of only 46 but accommodations for 216.
In 2008, a program was initiated to replace the St-Laurent with a 2017 expected in service date for the new icebreaker. After a series of delays and false starts new Polar Icebreakers are not now expected until 2030 (at least).
I wonder if perhaps the Canadian Coast Guard will attempt to keep the St-Laurent in service until their second polar icebreaker is completed, much as the USCG intends to keep Polar Star in service until the second Polar Security Cutter is delivered.
“NAUGHTY OR NICE: 2021 ARCTIC EDITION” –Modern War Institute
Image credit: https://www.scribbler.com/ (adapted by MWI)
Modern War Institute has a light hearted look at the Geo-Political situation in the Arctic, and, for once, no mention of the sorry state of the USCG icebreaker fleet.
“B.C. Supreme Court orders a lifetime fishing ban for repeat offender Scott Steer” –Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Canada is taking Fisheries Enforcement seriously,
December 20, 2021 – Vancouver B.C.
On November 12, 2021, in the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, Scott Stanley Matthew Steer — a repeat offender under Canada’s Fisheries Act — was handed a lifetime prohibition against fishing and a prohibition against being onboard a fishing vessel. This is the first life-time ban for a Pacific Region fisherman in over a decade.
These lifetime prohibitions are the result of an incident on March 1, 2020 in Vancouver Harbour when Mr. Steer was found illegally fishing for crab and was arrested, along with 2 crew members, when his vessel was boarded after a high speed pursuit.
In addition to the life-time bans, the Honourable Justice Peter H. Edelmann ordered Mr. Steer to six months in jail, minus time served, an additional three years’ probation, including 12 months under curfew, and 75 hours of community work. The Judge additionally banned him from involvement in the purchasing or sale of fish, including brokering, for 5 years. And, he added a ban against Mr. Steer purchasing or selling a fishing vessel, and ordered the forfeiting of the aluminum vessel used in the illegal activity, with the approximate value of $50,000.
Mr. Steer, who has previously been handed extensive fishing bans by the Courts, is currently awaiting 2 outstanding trials in Nanaimo for alleged violations of the Fisheries Act.
One of the two crew members arrested with Mr. Steer, Sammy Williams, was also convicted for violations of the Fisheries Act on November 30, 2021 in Vancouver Court and will be sentenced in the new year. The other crew member, Cristopher Schill, pleaded guilty in a separate trial and will also be sentenced in early 2022.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a mandate to protect and conserve marine resources and to prosecute offenders under the Fisheries Act. It ensures and promotes compliance with the Act and other laws and regulations through a combination of land, air, and sea patrols, as well as education and awareness activities.
- Illegal fishing undermines the effective management of Canada’s fisheries, and threatens the sustainability of local fishing resources. It can hurt the economic prospects of coastal communities, recreational and commercial industries, as well as diminish the traditional food sources of Indigenous people.
- The commercial crab fishery accounts for almost one third of British Columbia’s wild shellfish products. Only crab caught under a licence may be purchased or sold, and it must be processed and inspected through a licensed plant to ensure it is safe for public consumption.
- Anyone with information about suspected violations of Canada’s Fisheries Act and regulations can call the Fisheries and Oceans Canada toll-free violation reporting line at 1-800-465-4336, or e-mail the details to DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.
“New Royal Canadian Navy Offshore Patrol Vessel Visits Norfolk After Circumnavigating North America” –USNI
We have talked about the Canadian Navy’s Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) before (more here). It is, in many ways an Offshore Patrol Vessel, that would seem right at home in the US Coast Guard. In fact, in addition to the six being built for the Royal Canadian Navy, two are being built for the Canadian Coast Guard.
I would not be surprised if the US Coast Guard opts to build something similar. This US Naval Institute News Service story provides a bit more insight into its operations and how it is being used.
The AOPS, like the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), is a VARD design. It is based on the Norwegian Coast Guard Cutter Svalbard, that was capable enough to reach the North Pole on 21 August 2019. Svalbard also completed a scientific mission for the US in the Beuford Sea in 2020, when CGC Healy had a fire in one of its main propulsion motors and was unable to recover data contained in buoys she had deployed earlier.
Most surprising for me were the comments the ship’s use of containers,
At the briefing to press in Norfolk, which was broadcast online, he noted that sea-shipping containers aboard Harry DeWolf, not usually carried on warships, can be used as laboratories for science and researchers studying changes in the Arctic.
Gleason added that at all times the ship will have two containers loaded for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to respond to emergencies when called upon.
Gleason said early on there was a key training scenario of responding in a mass casualty scenario. In it Harry De Wolf worked with the U.S. and Canadian coast guards and naval vessels in treating and evacuating the injured aboard and taking them ashore.
On this mission to the North, Gleason said the containers had a real-time military mission. They “were used as underwater listening devices” for submarines. “Fortunately, we didn’t find any.”
I suspect the “underwater listening devices” for submarines was the Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar, TRAPS system, (more here).
“Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton offloads approximately $504 million in cocaine, marijuana at Port Everglades” –D7
Below is a news release from D7. It may seem routine, but this does mark something of a debut for an asset new to drug interdiction operations, Canada’s Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships. They are much larger and more capable than the Kingston class coastal defense ships Canada has previously used in support of our drug interdiction efforts. HMCS Harry DeWolf is making a circumnavigation of North America.
Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton offloads approximately $504 million in cocaine, marijuana at Port Everglades
Editor’s Note: Click on images to download high-resolution version.
MIAMI— Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton’s crew offloaded approximately 26,250 pounds of cocaine and 3,700 pounds of marijuana worth approximately $504 million, Monday, at Port Everglades, which is the largest drug interdiction in the ship’s history.
The Coast Guard’s strong international relationships, with key partners like Canada along with our specialized capabilities and unmatched authorities, allow for a unity of effort to disrupt transnational crime organizations, which threaten America and our partner nations.
The drugs were interdicted in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America, including contraband seized and recovered during eight interdictions of suspected drug smuggling vessels by three American and Canadian ships:
“I could not be prouder of this crew and their determination to keeping more than 26,000 pounds of cocaine from reaching the shores of Central and North America,” said Capt. Matthew Brown, commanding officer Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton. “It has been a dynamic two and half months for this ship with some very difficult law enforcement cases. But at the core of these capabilities is a true culture of trust and respect for each other which enabled the safe apprehension of 14 suspected traffickers. Each one of our cases represented the teamwork and partnerships not only domestically but with our partners in the Western Hemisphere.”
Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security cooperated in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies, play a role in counter-drug operations. The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys in districts across the nation.
During at-sea interdictions, a suspect vessel is initially detected and monitored by allied, military or law enforcement personnel coordinated by Joint Interagency Task Force-South based in Key West, Florida. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific is conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 11th District, headquartered in Alameda, California. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by members of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions by international partners and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in districts across the nation. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 11th District, headquartered in Alameda, California, and the law enforcement phase of operations in the Caribbean is conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 7th District, headquartered in Miami. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by members of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton is a 418-foot national security cutter homeported in Charleston, South Carolina. The Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Port Canaveral, Florida. Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf is a 340-foot Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) home ported in Halifax, Canada.
“U.S. Coast Guard completes Operation Nanook 2021” –News Release
Below is an Atlantic Area news release. Perhaps the photo above best conveys the importance of the release. We sent a Webber Class cutter from North Carolina, accompanied by a 270 foot WMEC, North through the Labrador Sea, through the Davis Strait into the Arctic waters of Baffin Bay.
This follows Nanook 2020 when 270 foot WMECs operated North of the Arctic Circle of the first time (and here). This is also part of the first operational deployment of Canada’s Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship, class leader HMCS Harry DeWolf as she begins a circumnavigation of North America.
Map of the Arctic, with the Arctic Circle in blue and the 10°C July mean isotherm in red
I note, unlike 2020, the Danes and French are not participating, at least in this “incident management and search and rescue” portion of the exercise.
Resupply in Greenland following the exercise renews a long association between the Coast Guard and Greenland.
U.S. Coast Guard completes Operation Nanook 2021
Editors’ Note: To view more or download high-resolution imagery, click on the photos above.
NUUK, Greenland — Strengthening partnerships and testing interoperability, the USCGC Escanaba (WMEC 907) and USCGC Richard Snyder (WPC 1127) participated in Operation Nanook in early to mid-August.
Operation Nanook is the Canadian Armed Forces’ signature Arctic operation, comprising a series of comprehensive, joint, interagency, and multinational activities designed to exercise the defense of Canada and security in the region and incident management response and search rescue capabilities. With commercial traffic and cruise ships increasingly visible in the Arctic, international collaborations are necessary to meet this increased traffic’s potential search and rescue challenges. Nanook-Tuugaalik is the maritime component of the Nanook series of deployments and training events intended to be an Arctic naval presence operation and domain awareness of the waters in and around Baffin Bay and Davis Strait. Nanook-Tatigiit is the incident management and search and rescue exercise portion.
“We had excellent training with the crews of HMCS Harry Dewolf (AOPV 430), HMCS Goose Bay (MM 707), and Richard Snyder. The joint effort during Tuugaalik and Tatigiit included multi-ship small boat training, formation steaming, hailing and signals exercises, and more. Weather, especially in the Arctic, is a genuine consideration, and increasing sea state and fog tested us,” said Cmdr. Ben Spector, the commanding officer of Escanaba. “The U.S. Coast Guard remains committed to conducting operations and combined maritime exercises throughout the Atlantic and the Arctic region, ensuring mission capacity and future force readiness. Training with our partners and allied nations ensure all countries are ready, relevant, and responsive in an ever-evolving maritime environment.”
This operation is also the first time the U.S. Coast Guard deployed a 154-foot Sentinel-class fast response cutter to the region – USCGC Richard Snyder. As the inventory of FRCs grows, the U.S. Coast Guard continues to test the full range of their capability, including operations in high latitude environments. While these ships are not ice-strengthened, units observed mitigations, such as the deployment time of year and carefully considering operating areas.
“The FRC has fared exceedingly well in the Arctic. Our major concerns were fuel and food, and there have been no issues with either as the cutter continues to steam through the operational area and complete all training and interactions with stellar results,” said Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Bredariol, the commanding officer of Richard Snyder. “We’ve done some once-in-a-lifetime activities including Fjords transits, getting close aboard icebergs much larger than the cutter; restricted waters transits in harsh conditions and deployment to an unfamiliar but mission-critical area. Our colleagues aboard the Escanaba were critical in our deployment, assisting with logistics and operational support. I can’t express enough our appreciation as we deployed far from our normal operations area and completed mission sets that we don’t generally practice. As a cutter based in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, we primarily focus on living marine resources and search and rescue.”
Following Nanook, both ship’s crews are conducting engagements and resupplying in Nuuk (Greenland–Chuck). Snyder will return home. Escanaba will transition to support Frontier Sentinel, an annual exercise between the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and Royal Canadian Navy, ensuring the ability of the Tri-Party Staff and tactical assets to work together. This year’s live exercise uses feedback from the prior year’s tabletop discussion.
Participants in all exercises are observing COVID-19 protocols to mitigate exposure and comply with host nation guidelines. Exercise scenarios took into account our COVID restrictions and respective realities.
Operation Nanook is the third of four major deployments of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Atlantic Arctic Season. In June, the USCGC Eagle (WIX 327) visited Iceland, where Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, the Atlantic Area commander, hosted Icelandic officials for Arctic discussions. Also, in June, the USCGC Maple (WLB 207) participated in the Danish Joint Arctic Command’s annual exercise, Ex Argus, in Southern Greenland with international partners. Later this fall, the USCGC Healy (WAGB 20) will make stops along the U.S. East Coast after transiting the Northwest Passage on their circumnavigation of North America.
Operation Nanook has been held annually since its inception over a decade ago. Last year’s exercise was scaled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While participants could not conduct port visits, the activity focused on naval readiness, ship tracking, and gunnery operations between multinational partners, including the United States, Canada, Denmark, and France. The U.S. sent the USCGC Tahoma (WMEC 908) and USCGC Campbell (WMEC 909) to participate.
USCGC Escanaba is a 270-foot Famous-class medium endurance cutter with a crew of about 100 operating for the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area. USCGC Richard Snyder is a Fifth Coast Guard District 154-foot Sentinel-class fast response cutter with a crew of about 24 also operating for U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area. The Atlantic Area commander and staff oversee all Coast Guard domestic operations east of the Rocky Mountains, including the Arctic, Caribbean, and Southern Atlantic and Coast Guard out-of-hemisphere operations in Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia.
“Royal Canadian Navy HMCS Harry DeWolf Departs On Her Maiden Operational Deployment” –Naval News
Naval News reports the first of Canada’s planned eight Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) (six for their Navy and two for their Coast Guard) departed on its first operational deployment on August 3. The deployment is expected to take four months and will include participation in the annual Nanook Exercise with partners including the USCG, transit of the North West Passage, counter clockwise circumnavigation of North America, and drug operations in the Eastern Pacific transit zone and the Caribbean again in cooperation with the USCG.
USCGC Healy departed for a clockwise circumnavigation of North America on July 10. Presumably these two will arrange to say hello as they pass. Hopefully both crews will be home by Christmas.
Canada’s HMCS Harry DeWolf Class AOPS
The Harry DeWolf class is an almost unique type of ship. Canada is building eight, six for their Navy and two for their Coast Guard. It is derived from the similar and perhaps slightly more capable Norwegian Coast Guard vessel Svalbard, which has made it to the North Pole and recently undertook a mission the Healy was unable to complete due to a machinery casualty.
They are classified as “Artic and Offshore Patrol Ships” or AOPS, rather than icebreakers, but they are clearly designed to operate in ice and are rated Polar Class 5 (Year-round operation in medium first-year ice, which may include old ice inclusions). In many ways they approximate the similarly sized and powered old Wind Class icebreakers. (2012 post on the class with updates in the comments here.)
Below are another photo and a couple of videos, but first the specs.
- Displacement: 6,615 t (6,511 long tons)
- Length: 103.6 m (339 ft 11 in)
- Beam: 19 m (62 ft 4 in)
- Draft: 6.5 m (21 ft 4 in) (estimate based on that of Svalbard)
- Propulsion Generators: Four 3.6 MW (4,800 hp)
- Propulsion Motors: 2 × 4.5 MW (6,000 hp)
- Speed: 17 knots
- Endurance: 6,800 nautical miles
- Crew: 65 (accomodations for 85)
- Armament: one 25mm Mk38 remote weapon system modified for Arctic Conditions and two .50 cal. machine guns (I do feel this is inadequate.)