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Community Re-Supply Vessels        

Community Re-Supply Vessels

(from AMSA Report 2009)


For 2004, community re-supply made up a significant portion of the ship traffic throughout the Arctic. In some areas of the region, this is also referred to as coastal Arctic shipping. In areas such as the Canadian Arctic, eastern Russia and Greenland, this activity was the basis for most ship traffic. Re-supply activities provide a lifeline to many communities that have no or very limited road access and no or limited capacity to handle heavy aircraft. Most communities serviced - mainly in Canada, the Russian Federation, Greenland, the United States, Svalbard and Bear Island - are ice-locked for parts of the year and rely heavily on marine transportation during the summer months for their dry foods, fuel, building materials and other commodities.

Community re-supply and coastal Arctic shipping involve a range of ship types, including tankers, general cargo and container ships and, in some areas, tug/barge combinations. Tug/barge operations are particularly common in the western Canadian and Alaska Arctic and are used in these regions for mostly community re-supply, as well as for supplying mining and other construction projects. Tug/ barge operations typically consist of a tug towing up to three barges. Depending on conditions, a tug/barge train can be a kilometer in length or more. Map 5.2 shows where the tug/barge activity took place, according to the data reported.

Summer resupply is handled by barge traffic along the Alaska Arctic, and in the Canadian Arctic a lack of deepwater ports requires lightering from larger supply ships at select Arctic communities. Lightering (shuttling goods from the anchored main ship to shore) is used to bring cargo ashore and tanker ships transfer petroleum products ashore by way of pumps and floating fuel lines, at many Arctic locations without deep-water access. There are select ports in Greenland, Svalbard and along the Northern Sea Route for normal cargo handling in small ports. Along the coasts of Norway and Iceland, and in Murmansk (northwest Russian Federation), all of which are ice-free year-round, there are deep-water port facilities to handle volumes of cargo from global shipping.

Community re-supply is expected to expand in the coming years due both to population increases in Arctic communities and increasing development in the region, stimulating demand for goods and construction materials. The 2004 AMSA data shows where this type of vessel traffic is occurring and can, therefore, serve as a good baseline tool when projecting future activity under various scenarios for population and economic growth.


  •  1. Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment Report 2009

Arctic Council, 2009, Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA), Arctic Council.©

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