Changes in shipping navigability in the Canadian Arctic between 1972 and 2016

Luke Copland, Jackie Dawson, Adrienne Tivy, Frances Delaney, Alison Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


There have been rapid recent reductions in sea ice age and extent in the Canadian Arctic, but little previous analysis of how this has impacted the navigability of Arctic shipping. In this study we analyze how navigability changed over the period 1972–2016 by converting Canadian Ice Service ice charts to shipping navigability charts for different hull strength classifications based on the Arctic Ice Regime Shipping System. Analysis focuses on the southern route of the Northwest Passage, and the Arctic Bridge route across Hudson Bay, for changes in early-season (∼25 June), mid-season (∼3 September), and late-season (∼15 October) conditions. Results reveal that there has been a marked easing in shipping navigability for all vessels over the past decade, driven by reductions in the area and age of sea ice, particularly across the southern route of the Northwest Passage. Both medium (Type B) and little (Type E) ice strengthened vessels were able to transit the full length of this route in the middle part of the shipping season in 2012–2016, but not in 1972–1976 or 1992–1996.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1069-1087
Number of pages19
Early online date30 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Jun 2021


  • Arctic
  • Climate change
  • Navigability
  • Northwest Passage
  • Sea ice
  • Shipping


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