The Nunavut government and Canada are scrambling to deal with a potential environmental issue and boating hazard in the northernmost territory, a region located south of the Arctic Circle but with a polar climate and freezing cold for much of the year. Late on Friday afternoon, October 27, a cargo vessel that provides a vital supply line to the remote region had an accident losing a portion of its cargo into the harbor.
Alerts have been sent out warning boaters to use caution as the Canadian Coast Guard and NEAS, operators of Nunavik Eastern Arctic Shipping, work to locate the cargo which is reported to be floating in the harbor. The government is advising that 20 shipping containers and assorted freight fell off the cargo ship and into Frobisher Bay near the Iqaluit port.
The vessel appears to be NEAS’s Sivumut, an 8,000 dwt cargo ship. Built in 2010 and registered in Canada, it can transport up to 655 containers or loose cargo. The vessel has two onboard cranes for cargo handling. The pictures appearing online show the vessel at anchor with the containers floating behind the ship. Weather in the area could also present a challenge with air temperatures in the mid-20s F (-3 C currently).
The government did not advise what is in the containers. However, they are warning that the containers are drifting and could be heading to neighboring Apex. The vessel appears to have been in the port all week handling cargo off loading on to barges.
Iqaluit’s new deep sea port was only opened officially in July after an approximately C$100 million (US$72.5 million) project to replace the old sealift beach which the local government had deemed no longer suited to the community’s sealift operations. The town is Nunavut’s territorial capital and a regional hub. The new Iqaluit deep sea port was designed to provide sealift operators and local companies with safer conditions to offload and pick up cargo. The new port they said during the opening ceremonies would permit ships to offload at all tides, streamline sealift operations, and strengthen Nunavut’s marine transportation network.