Slow down, Baffinland tells cruise ships

Cruise ships have been speeding near Pond Inlet, says Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.

Baffinland has posted on social media each time it has noticed a cruise ship going more than nine knots, which is the miner’s own speed limit for its contract vessels. On September 13th it posted about it a cruise ship sailing at 13.8 knots – speeds it describes as “disturbing”.

“Baffinland documents and reports all violations at sea, including our vessels. The reason for our contributions is not to shame or blame, but to raise awareness of the need for uniform rules for all vessels in northern waterways,” said Peter Akman, Baffinland’s Head of Stakeholder Relations.

“Baffinland vessels voluntarily adhere to restrictions such as a maximum speed of nine knots and stay within a designated shipping route to minimize potential impacts on marine mammals and the environment at large.”

In early August, Baffinland reported that its ship spotters had tracked a Norwegian passenger ship, traveling at a speed of 11 knots, entering what the Twitter post said included several Inuit ecological “no-go zones” and narwhal calving grounds .

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Nansen Polar Expeditions responded to the Baffinland post, attributing the ship’s speed and position to poor weather and saying they had been in contact with the Pond Inlet community.

Located at the east entrance of the Northwest Passage, Pond Inlet has seen about 20 cruise ships this summer.

Baffinland, whose port for the Mary River iron mine is in Milne Inlet, about 100 kilometers from the township of Pond Inlet, will now receive warnings if a vessel is traveling over nine knots in the area.

Full-time Inuit marine wardens in Pond Inlet track and view vessels and provide daily updates, Akman said.

Observers aboard MV Botnica include Inuit researchers, biologists and marine wildlife observers who record data on marine mammal locations and behavior, other vessels, ice conditions and observations of seabirds, he said.

Baffinland is working with community members, hunter and trapper organizations and hamlets to ensure any concerns related to shipping activities are addressed, Akman said.

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Hunters in Pond Inlet have said that the shipping activities of Baffinland’s Mary River Mine are having a negative impact on narwhal numbers in the area.

While Baffinland has acknowledged the decline in narwhal numbers, the company has argued that there is no clear evidence that its shipping activities are responsible, as other environmental factors, such as changing sea ice conditions or new predator and prey dynamics, could play a role.

In an online document on marine wildlife surveillance, Baffinland calls its current speed limit “a strong and conservative mitigation measure.”

“To our knowledge, this remains the lowest speed limit for watercraft in Canada,” said Lou Kamermans, Baffinland’s senior director of sustainable development, in a June letter to the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

Meanwhile, Baffinland is expecting a decision from Ottawa next week to keep Mary River ore production at six million tons.

No cruise ship speed limits in Canadian Arctic waters

Transport Canada does not regulate specific speed limits in Canadian Arctic waters, said Sau Sau Liu, Transport Canada’s senior communications advisor.

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That’s although there is a “voluntary slowdown” in marine protected areas, particularly around the Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam and the Tarium Niryutait in the western Arctic, Liu said.

The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators said its members are required to “always comply with local and state speed limits and other environmental protections mandated by law.”

But the association does not have its own additional speed regulations for cruise ships, said Anne Øien, the association’s communications manager.

Pond Inlet is located in the heart of the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Protected Area.

Therefore, Kristin Westdal, science director of the conservation organization Oceans North, supports the call for speed reductions for ships sailing in and around Tallurutiup Imanga.

Westdal said all operators should slow down in an area that is a “sensitive and important habitat for narwhals”.

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association has not yet responded to a request for comment on the call to slow down cruise lines.

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