The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way science at sea is conducted, especially when dealing with access to remote areas such as the Arctic Ocean. As the manager of the main Arctic marine research infrastructure in Canada, Amundsen Science is taking very seriously the health threat imposed by COVID-19. We are working closely with the Canadian Coast Guard and Commanding Officers of the research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen to ensure compliance with the sanitary rules in force. Our primary objective during the current pandemic is to maintain acceptable at-sea research activities while taking the appropriate measures not to affect the health and safety of Canada’s northern communities and safeguard all sea-going personnel and support staff ashore. Our central concern remains the preservation of our scientific mandate without compromising any health, safety, and security aspect related to our scientific activities.
Our organisation has been, and will continue to be, engaged with all our user programs to evaluate the feasibility of implementing their scientific endeavours as the crisis persists. Our approach is guided by recommendations from all levels of government, in Nunavut in particular, and by the National Standard Operating Procedures of the Canadian Coast Guard.
Extra preventive measures are taken such as pre-boarding health assessment and testing of all sea-going personnel. Physical distancing will be exerted on board the vessel and protective personal equipment will be used as necessary to limit inter-individual exposure. In the unlikely event of a suspected COVID-19 case aboard the vessel, the suspected personnel will be confined to their cabin and sent home through the nearest southern port. Once the vessel has been disinfected and the personnel disembarked, science operations may resume with active surveillance for the following 14 days according to the guidelines of the International Maritime Organization.
Amundsen Science is committed to supporting the scientific needs of all our user programs as we navigate together through these uncertain times. We encourage the research community to maximize the use of the vast amount of data already collected by the CCGS Amundsen over the last 17 years while we wait for a successful outcome to the fight against COVID-19. In any case, we will continue to work towards the return of Arctic operations for 2021 with the expectation that enhanced sanitary measures will remain in place for the years to come. The health and safety of all members of our researcher community, colleagues from the Canadian Coast Guard, and northern Indigenous peoples who welcome us in their homeland remain our top priority.