Canada, US Conduct Joint Oil Spill Drill

From Herald News

In a signal of increasing concerns over Arctic shipping, U.S. and Canadian coast guard vessels have conducted their first joint Arctic offshore oil spill drill near the Bering Strait.

Two days of tests of vessels and equipment were scheduled at Port Clarence, a protected bay near the strait, although poor weather limited actual deployment of spill gear to one day, said Coast Guard spokesman Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow.

Port Clarence has been designated by the Coast Guard as a port of refuge for vessels in distress.

A Coast Guard skimming system was successfully deployed from a Canadian vessel participating in the drill, but bad weather also prevented deployment of a large ship emergency towing system provided by the state of Alaska, Wadlow said.

The exercise was held July 17 and 18.

The Bering Strait separates Alaska and Russia, and there is increasing concern among Coast Guard and Alaska officials about growing non-U.S. vessel traffic including oil tankers and liquefied natural gas carriers using the Russia’s Arctic northern sea route from Europe to Asia. The route transits the Bering Strait, which can be constricted by ice and bad weather.

The loss of summer Arctic sea ice, which is at record lows this year, is making the Arctic sea routes more available for commercial shipping, including for vessels that are non-ice strengthened.

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