Arctic Voyage Planning Guide
A compilation of data and services relevant to mariners travelling in the Arctic region of Canada. The AVPG is not intended to replace official carriage information or products provided from Canadian sources. In case of disparity, the information contained in official publications will prevail. The mariners remain responsible for navigational decisions and safety of their ships. The information provided in this guide should be used together with all other relevant information, as required by law, standards and good seamanship practices.
The Arctic Voyage Planning Guide (AVPG) is intended as a strategic planning tool for national and international vessels traveling in the Canadian Arctic. It draws together regulatory information pursuant to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations, 1995 as well as complementary data and information from Canadian federal departments with mandates to support safe navigation. The intent of the AVPG is to provide a comprehensive digital planning tool for mariners considering an Arctic voyage.
The mariners remain responsible for navigational decisions and safety of their ships. The information provided in this guide should be used together with all other relevant information, as required by law, standards and good seamanship practices.
The AVPG is not intended to replace official carriage information or products provided from Canadian sources. This AVPG digital version will be maintained with Notices to Mariners as needed but in case of disparity, the information contained in official publications will prevail.
The Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) publishes almost 1,000 paper charts, which are described in a series of four free chart catalogues for the Pacific Coast, Central Canada, Atlantic Coast and the Arctic. These catalogues are available from CHS chart dealers, or you can contact CHS directly for a free catalogue. Although CHS does not sell charts directly to the public, we distribute to over 800 dealers across Canada and around the world.
At present, less than 10% of Arctic waters are surveyed to modern standards. In addition, the mariner must be aware of the horizontal datum used for the chart. GPS positions can only be plotted directly on NAD 83 (equivalent to WGS 84) charts. For charts with other datums, the appropriate correction must be applied. Some Arctic charts do not have a reference datum and therefore no available corrections. In such cases, alternative sources of positional information should be used such as radar and visual lines of position when possible. It is always recommended that more than one means be used to fix a position.
As always, mariners must use up-to-date nautical charts and nautical publications to plan each voyage. This includes making use of annual and monthly Notices to Mariners and northern Canada Sailing Directions. Of particular note, given the challenges in Canada’s northern waters of charting, confirming chart anomalies, and servicing aids to navigation, mariners must ensure that all Notices to Shipping (broadcast and written) and NAVAREA warnings that are in force in the area are taken into account.
Sailing Directions are the indispensable companions to charts. A great tool for planning and assisting in navigation, Sailing Directions provide information beyond that which can be shown on a chart.
Tides and Current Tables
The Tides, Currents, and Water Levels publication provides predicted times and heights of high and low waters, and the hourly water levels for over seven hundred stations in Canada. The printed version is published yearly and is available through the authorized chart dealers.
List of Lights, Buoys and Fog Signals
Provides key information about Canadian Coast Guard approved and managed lights, buoys and fog signals, including position, characteristics, height and reference charts.
Radio Aids to Marine Navigation (RAMN)
The main purpose of RAMN is to present information on radio communications and radio navigational aids services provided in Canada by the Canadian Coast Guard. Radio facilities of other government agencies that contribute to the safety of ships in Canadian waters are also included.
Ice Navigation in Canadian Waters
Ice Navigation in Canadian Waters published by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canadian Coast Guard, provides important information to ships operating in ice in all Canadian waters, including the Arctic. This document provides Masters and watchkeeping crew of vessels transiting Canadian ice-covered waters with the necessary information to achieve an understanding of the hazards, navigation techniques, and response of the vessel.
Annual Notice to Mariners (NOTMAR)
The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) Notices to Mariners (NOTMAR) publication provides mariners the necessary information to update charts and nautical publications. It advises mariners of new initiatives, services and also important announcements concerning the maritime community.
Notice to Shipping (NOTSHIP)
The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) issues Notices to Shipping (NOTSHIP) to inform mariners about hazards to navigation and to share other important information.
NOTSHIP alerts are broadcast by radio by Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS). Written NOTSHIP alerts are issued when the location of the hazard is beyond broadcast range, or when the information remains in effect for an extended period of time.
Legislation and Regulation
Acts and Regulations
The Canada Shipping Act (CSA) 2001 is Canada's principal legislation for shipping. It applies in all Canadian waters, including the Arctic. The Marine Liability Act (MLA) makes the owners and/or operators of vessels responsible and liable for their vessels and the consequences of its operations. The Marine Transportation Security Act (MTSA) provides for the security of marine transportation. It applies to ships and marine facilities in Canada, and to Canadian ships outside of Canada. The Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) protects navigation from being impeded or made more dangerous, and it regulates ferry cables and draw bridges.
Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Service Zone (NORDREG)
The Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone Regulations formally establish the Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services (NORDREG) Zone and, consistent with international law regarding ice-covered areas, implement the requirements for vessels to report information prior to entering, while operating within and upon exiting Canada’s northern waters.
Arctic Shipping Pollution Prevention Regulations
Navigation in coastal waters within Canadian jurisdiction north of latitude 60°N is governed by the Arctic Shipping Pollution Prevention Regulations (ASPPR), under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. The ASPPR deal with the construction of ships (certain construction requirements for different navigation zones); bunkering stations; Arctic Pollution Prevention Certificates; Ice Navigator issues (any vessel planning to use the Arctic Ice Regime Shipping System and every tanker must have a qualified Ice Navigator on board); fuel and water concerns (enough of both on board before entering a zone); sewage deposit and oil deposit mishaps (unavoidable deposit only, that is, to save a life; or from damage to a ship from stranding, collision, or foundering if all reasonable precautions were taken).
IMO Guidelines for Ships Operating in Polar Waters
Ice poses serious danger to ships. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Guidelines seek to minimize incidents and to prevent loss of life and property during ship operations in ice-covered waters.
The depicted vessel traffic pattern is not intended to show recommended or safest routes. It is only a representation of the routes that have been most used by the vessels that reported in 2010 to the Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Services (NORDREG).
Fisheries and Oceans Canada acknowledges the valuable contribution of information and data from the Canadian Coast Guard, the Canadian Hydrographic Service, Transport Canada, Environment Canada and GeoGratis © Department of Natural Resources Canada. The AVPG is not intended to replace official carriage information or products provided from Canadian sources. In case of disparity, the information contained in official publications will prevail.
For more information, visit Arctic Voyage Planning Guide.
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