Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Canadian research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen?

In June 2002, a proposal submitted by a consortium of Canadian universities and federal agencies to transform the decommissioned icebreaker CCGS Sir John Franklin into a research vessel was accepted by the International Joint Ventures Fund of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The grant of $27.7M from CFI and a contribution of $2.8M from the Department of Fisheries Oceans – Coast Guard allowed for the reactivation of the ship, the completion of major structural transformations, the purchase of state-of-the-art scientific equipment and contributed partial funding for operation of the ship during the first five years.

The Amundsen is owned by the Government of Canada and operated by the Canadian Coast Guard. The science program of the Amundsen is overseen by a Board of Directors and is managed by a Science Consortium composed of Canadian universities and federal agencies, led by Université Laval. The Amundsen is made available to the scientific community, including ArcticNet, its primary scientific user network, on a full cost-recovery basis. Within the framework of a cost-sharing arrangement between the Government of Canada and the Science Consortium, the Amundsen spends half of the year carrying out its Coast Guard mandate and the other half conducting scientific research in the coastal Canadian Arctic.

What is ArcticNet?

ArcticNet is a large research network funded by the Government of Canada through the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program; a joint initiative of the three granting Councils of Canada and Industry Canada. NCEs foster multi-disciplinary and multi-sector partnerships between academia, industry, government and not-for-profit organizations focused on turning Canadian research and entrepreneurial talent into economic and social benefits for all Canadians. As part of its NCE mandate, ArcticNet brings together over 140 researchers in the natural, human health and social sciences from 30 Canadian universities with their partners from Inuit organizations, government and industry to study the impacts of climate change and modernization in the coastal Canadian Arctic.

ArcticNet researchers in the atmospheric, climatic, and marine geological and biological sciences use the Canadian research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen as their main sampling platform to access and study the coastal Canadian Arctic. The CCGS Amundsen has also been used as a floating clinic allowing ArcticNet researchers in human health sciences, as well as nurses and doctors, to visit Canada's coastal northern communities to assess the health of Inuit residents.

What is the relationship between ArcticNet and the Amundsen?

In line with a cost-sharing arrangement between the Government of Canada and a Science Consortium, composed of Canadian universities and federal agencies, ArcticNet uses the Amundsen as its primary marine research infrastructure. ArcticNet researchers from various disciplines have been using the Amundsen since 2004 to conduct extensive multidisciplinary science programs in the coastal Canadian Arctic. The goal of the ArcticNet marine-based research program is to study on a long-term basis the impact of climate-induced changes and modernization on the marine ecosystem of the Canadian Arctic Ocean. In addition to an annual sampling program, ArcticNet researchers have conducted two major international overwintering research programs onboard the CCGS Amundsen in 2003-2004 (CASES program) and in 2007-2008 (CFL program).

What is the situation with offshore Oil & Gas exploration in the Canadian Beaufort Sea?

Although major research activities were conducted in the nearshore region of the Beaufort Sea in the 1970s and 1980s in large part due to Oil & Gas interests, much less is known about the offshore region of the Mackenzie Shelf, shelf-slope and Beaufort Sea. Beginning in 2007, the Government of Canada through its Department of Indian and Northern Affairs awarded exploration licenses in the offshore Beaufort Sea, a region extensively studied by ArcticNet researchers and their affiliates since 2002. Before any exploratory drilling is approved for these exploration licenses, the Oil & Gas industry must demonstrate to Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) that drilling will be conducted in a safe manner with no significant impact on the environment. The NEB review must be based on sound engineering and scientific data that covers issues such as the stability of the ocean floor, the sea-ice regime, and the biological and ecological importance of the area targeted for exploration drilling.

What is the relationship between ArcticNet, the Amundsen and the Oil & Gas Industry in the Beaufort Sea?

The central mandate of ArcticNet is to provide Inuit and other northern communities and organizations, as well as federal departments and the private sector with the scientific knowledge needed to make decisions and formulate strategies to minimize the negative impacts and maximize the benefits of climate change and industrialization in the Canadian Arctic. Building on successful research partnerships with several corporations operating in the Arctic, new research collaborations were developed with Imperial Oil and BP in the Beaufort Sea in 2009 and 2010, respectively. These collaborations enabled ArcticNet researchers to expand their Amundsen-based environmental data collection efforts in and around the Beaufort Sea exploration license areas awarded to these corporations by the Government of Canada. As an independent academic-led network and owner of all collected data, ArcticNet provides a scientifically endorsed mechanism for making the same reliable data accessible to all stakeholders, including industry, regulators, northern communities, federal departments and the public, for contribution to decisions on proposed developments and regulations.

As with every ArcticNet research project supported by the CCGS Amundsen, the operation of the vessel as part of these industry collaborations is conducted on a full cost-recovery basis by the Canadian Coast Guard. Under the aegis of a cost-sharing arrangement for the operation of the CCGS Amundsen, ArcticNet is responsible for funding the full operational costs of the vessel and the maintenance and depreciation of the scientific equipment used during the research expeditions. Under the joint supervision of the Board of Directors of ArcticNet and the Board of Directors of the Amundsen, some of the revenues derived from these collaborations in 2009 and 2010 were reinvested in the recapitalisation of the Amundsen’s scientific equipment and in the funding of 12 new ArcticNet projects focusing on Inuit education, health, and culture.

These novel research collaborations between ArcticNet and the Oil & Gas industry for the collection of publicly available environmental data, guarantee that the decision to go ahead (or not) with exploration drilling is based on the best scientific information available shared by all parties. As such, these collaborations benefit all stakeholders, including northern communities, regulators and the general public.

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