Canada to toughen requirements for ships in Arctic

Wed Aug 27, 2008 4:55pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

TUKTOYAKTUK, Northwest Territories (Reuters) - Canada, pushing its claims of Arctic sovereignty, said on Wednesday it would toughen reporting requirements for ships entering its waters in the Far North, where some of those territorial claims are disputed by other countries.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled the plan in Tuktoyaktuk, a village near the western entrance to the fabled Northwest Passage, which is expected to see increased ship traffic and resource exploration as global warming melts ice in the polar region.

Canada will change its rules to extend its environmental regulatory jurisdiction over ships in Arctic waters to 200 nautical miles from its coast from the current 100.

A shipping act that had previously made reporting by non-Canadian ships entering the waters to be voluntary will also be tightened.

The announcement during a two-day campaign-style swing by Harper through the Far North comes amid speculation his government will call a fall election as early as next week.

Harper's initiative to strengthen Canada's Arctic claims and to develop the North are his most high-profile initiatives in some time and are bound to feature prominently in the expected poll.

"These measures will send a clear message to the world. Canada takes its responsibilities seriously for environmental protection and enforcement in our Arctic waters," Harper told a chilly windswept news conference after he toured a Coast Guard boat based in Tuktoyaktuk.

Harper said Canada was not making a "power play" and the changes were in the interest of the environment.   Continued...

<p>Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers question at a news conference after touring the coast guard ship Nahidik north of the Arctic Circle in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, August 27, 2008. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>