Safe Navigation & Environmental Protection

Lay Summary 

The Northwest Atlantic and Canadian Arctic Gateway are undergoing fundamental change. Arctic sea ice is melting due to climate change and as a result, this region of the ocean is becoming more accessible to summer commercial and recreational shipping, with consequential impacts on navigation routes.  


While increased shipping is beneficial to trade, resource development and scientific studies, it also results in adverse impacts. This includes air pollution, risks for public health, greenhouse gas emissions, potential conflicts with other ocean users, safety of life at sea concerns, potentially costly marine pollution, disruption of marine life from anthropogenic noise and potential disruption of Inuit uses of ice and marine areas. 


This research project explores a range of tools to help mitigate risks and adverse impacts from shipping and identify respectful approaches for safeguarding Inuit interests. It will also contribute to marine spatial planning, and determine how complementarities can be promoted and conflicts prevented — or managed — in shipping corridors.


This work is uniquely complex. The Northwest Atlantic and Canadian Arctic Gateway are not static and have seasonal risk patterns, including bad weather, fog and the presence —or absence — of ice. The Marine Spatial Planning component in the Canadian Arctic Gateway will be driven largely by Inuit perspectives and interests, which see the changing land-, sea-, and ice-scapes as a continuity. 


The Impact

This research is helping develop in-depth understanding of key risks, including:

  • how aerosols transport pollution from ship atmospheric emissions and potential health and environmental impacts
  • the impact of ship-generated noise in the marine ecosystem
  • search and rescue and pollution response demands from increased shipping in remote areas
  • conflicting interactions produced by increased shipping on other ocean users, most especially Inuit communities.


The project will produce a suite of risk assessment, spatial use planning and policy tools to assist Canadian regulators, shipping industry and coastal communities and facilitate allocation of scarce resources. 


More information about this project and a complete list of researchers can be found here.


Adapted from

School of Maritime Studies
Community Health and Humanities
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Environmental Risk Assesment
Maritime Safety
Occupational Health and Safety
Climate Change
Cold Ocean and Arctic, Science, Technology and Society
Industry Sectors 
Water Transportation
Start date 
1 Jan 2018
Lead Organization 
Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI)
Partner Organization 
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Kiel University
Université de Bretagne Occidentale
IMO World Maritime University