Life jacket for the French Ambassador in the Arctic

2 Sep 2011

Once more, he could not say no to the invitation of a ship owner with a polar cruise. Michel Rocard, French ambassador for the Arctic and Antarctic poles embarks September 4th from Iqaluit in the Canadian arctic for eleven days aboard the Boréal.

This voyage is not without risks for the passengers and the environment. A year ago exactly, in the same waters, the Clipper Adventurer ran aground on a reef. The 197 passengers and crew members had to wait forty-eight hours on the ship, in distress, before beginning to be evacuated. Means of assistance and salvage from Canada like other coastal states of the icy Arctic Ocean are inadequate. The ship owner sued the Canadian government for mistakes in the mapping surveys. Today, only ten percent of the Arctic Ocean is correctly charted.

Between 1979 and 1988 fourteen running aground of ships were listed in the Canadian arctic, twenty between 1989 and 1998, and twenty-seven between 1999 and 2008, a growth of accidents in proportion with the development of maritime traffic of passengers and goods. These terrible fortunes of sea are responsible for a number of oil spills due to lack of response methods in an environment at the time both fragile and difficult to access. If the Boréal was the victim of such an accident, it could count on the comprehension of Canadian justice that just inflicted a modest fine of $15,000 to the ship owner of the Mokami for having polluted the port of Coral Harbor- Nunavut- three times during refueling operations.

No doubt Mr. Rocard will not miss emphasizing on the dangers of tourism in the Arctic on board the Boréal, in talks that he practices in such circumstances. However, he is a lot less talkative in the international convention strategic meetings. The French ambassador is always absent in the predatory meetings and the plenary sessions of the OSPAR Convention for the protection of marine environment of the North East Atlantic, and the International Whaling Commission, two forums where the arctic environmental stakes are otherwise more difficult to defend than in the lounges of a steamship. In the same way the arctic workgroup incorporated by the Environment Round Table, never benefit from Mr. Rocards perspective. It is true that it has only met twice since 2007.


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