The MSV Nordica was in Vancouver in early July to stock up on supplies and pick up additional crew before starting out on its journey through the Northwest Passage. The multipurpose icebreaker is spending the month of July travelling from Vancouver, passing through the Bering Strait, Cambridge Bay and Peel Sound to reach Nuuk, Greenland. “The transit is part of the celebrations of Finland’s 100-year anniversary of independence as well as our first year as Chair of the Arctic Council,” said Captain Matti Westerlund. As we learned while touring the ship that was docked at Lynnterm East in North Vancouver, there are in fact a number of unique aspects to this voyage.
The Nordica is a multifunction vessel based on a modified icebreaker design with diesel-electric propulsion. In addition to icebreaking and ice management, the vessel is specially designed for a wide range of offshore work. It can be equipped for laying pipes and cables, assist research and the building of subsea or surface structures, for example, offshore wind installations. The 160T SWL crane is well-suited for demanding subsea lifts.
The vessel is one of eight icebreakers owned by the State of Finland by way of Arctia Ltd. which provides icebreaking services and specialized multipurpose vessel services in polar regions. Operating in the Bay of Bothnia and elsewhere in the Baltic Sea, Arctia also exports Finnish icebreaking expertise abroad. The company has experience from both the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage, as well as offshore operations in Alaska, Greenland and elsewhere in the Arctic. Arctia’s customer base includes international energy companies, research institutions and other organizations active in polar areas. The company’s offshore services include, but are not restricted to, ice management, pipe and cable laying, towing, service work for production platforms, and the installation and maintenance of underwater structures.
Arctia continues the 127-year-old Finnish icebreaking tradition by deploying one of the strongest icebreaker fleets in the world. The fleet includes three conventional icebreakers called Voima (commissioned in 1954, major refits in 1979 and 2016), Urho (1975) and Sisu (1976), a converted polar icebreaker Otso (1986), an oil recovery icebreaker Kontio (1987), two multipurpose icebreakers called Fennica (1993) and Nordica (1994), and a state-of-the-art harbour icebreaker Ahto (2014). From 2010 to 2016, IB Kontio was in continuous state of readiness for oil spill response operations in the northern Baltic Sea as mandated by EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency).
The Arctic 100 Expedition
The Arctic 100 Expedition is an international expedition in Arctic waters which, as noted previously, will see the Nordica transit through the Northwest Passage to celebrate the centenary of Finland’s independence and Finland’s first year as Chair of the Arctic Council. It also unique in its scope of international collaboration and offer to pool and share Arctic assets for research.
In terms of collaboration, joining the crew of the Nordica to provide ice navigation services is Duke Snider and Nigel Greenwood, both well-known figures on Canada’s West Coast. Captain Snider, previously the Regional Director Fleet Western Region for the Canadian Coast Guard, is CEO and Principal Consultant of Martech Polar Consulting as well as President of the Nautical Institute. Rear-Admiral (Ret’d) Greenwood led the Maritime Pacific Forces for the Royal Canadian Navy and is currently providing consulting services through Greenwood Maritime.
Recognizing that research on both the Arctic and the Southern Ocean is essential for the study of climate change and many other challenges facing the world today, yet also aware that many nations and institutes around the world with research interests in polar areas do not have the logistical means to access these areas, Arctia Ltd. is offering its fleet and expertise for the international research community.
International polar expeditions during transit voyages of commercial icebreakers are very rare. This expedition demonstrates the idea of jointly using all icebreakers around the world, not only the limited number of national polar research vessels, for research purposes in polar areas. In addition to using transit voyages to take on board researchers, icebreaker operators could in the future charter vessels to joint ventures of multiple research institutes in a flexible way. Arctia Ltd. wants to be in the forefront of this new way of thinking: pooling and sharing of Arctic assets.
“During the transit through the NWP, the vessel’s crew and the experts on board will observe ice conditions, and develop international ties between business and academia,” said Tom Nyberg from the Honorary Consulate of Finland in Vancouver. “The journey also reaches out to deepen international and local dialogue in the field of Arctic research.”
The expedition is conducted in cooperation with the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada, Martech Polar, Nunavut Impact Review Board, and the Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium. The expedition is part of the program for the centenary of Finland’s independence in 2017 and it was planned in cooperation with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland.
Readers and fans can follow the expedition on Facebook (@Arctic100Expedition) as well as Arctia’s Instagram (@arctia_ltd) and Twitter (@ArctiaLTD) or by following the hashtags #Arctic100 and #Nordica.