Canadian navy delays opening of crucial Arctic facility to 2018

Mon Mar 2, 2015 4:55pm EST
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By Mike De Souza

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's military has again delayed the opening of a major new Arctic port, a sign the government is struggling to assert sovereignty over a remote resource-rich region.

The planned deep water naval facility at Nanisivik - some 3,100 km (1,900 miles) north of Ottawa - is one of the key components of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "use it or lose it" approach to the Arctic. The port, initially due to open in 2012, will now not be operational until 2018.

Nanisivik lies at the entrance to the Northwest Passage, which could become a shortcut for shipping between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as global warming gradually opens up ice-clogged waterways.

Canada claims sovereignty over the passage and the port at Nanisivik would help to maintain a presence in the region. The United States disputes Canada's claim, saying the passage lies in international waters.

Ottawa said in 2007 the port would be open in 2012. In August 2013, it delayed the opening to 2017 and scaled back the facility to avoid cost overruns.

The defense ministry blamed the new delay on efforts to decontaminate land at Nanisivik, the site of a now-closed lead and zinc mine.

"The target date was adjusted to 2018 after (we) completed initial site investigations ... to ensure all requirements of the facility could be met," said spokeswoman Dominique Tessier.

Nanisivik was originally designed to include a permanent office but will operate as a four-month summer refueling and docking station.   Continued...