ARKTOS® Craft – Early Development Stage

Watercraft Offshore Canada Ltd. (WOCL) was formed in mid-1982 to investigate how to design a lifeboat that could operate in the ice-infested waters in the Canadian Arctic due to oil exploration being planned. For the next 12-months WOCL undertook an exhaustive search for, and evaluation of existing technology.

Hundreds of technical papers from around the world were scrutinized and staff traveled to several countries examining existing equipment.

A set of criteria was developed from this research that defined requirements for a new evacuation system that met all the capabilities of a standard totally enclosed lifeboat as well as the ability to operate in temperatures down to -50 degrees Celsius, land-fast ice-rubble fields, shear-zone ice and high winds on any ice surface of the Beaufort Sea.

In parallel to this research WOCL began testing a ¼-scale model at the University of British Columbia’s open-water wave test tank, and then at the US Army’s cold region research ice tank (CRREL).

With the knowledge gained from the ¼-scale model testing, WOCL designed and tested a 6/10-scale manned-model in 1983. The 6/10-scale model confirmed the very positive test results of the ¼-scale model and served as a platform for the development of control systems and operational procedures.


ARKTOS® Craft – Prototype Stage

In 1984 WOCL demonstrated the capabilities of the manned model to representatives of the Coast Guards and oil industry from both the United States and Canada. On the strength of the representatives unanimous and enthusiastic reaction WOCL proceeded to the next phase: design and construction of a full-scale prototype.

The full-scale design phase was funded and assisted technically by ESSO Canada, EXXON USA, GULF Canada, SHELL Canada, SHELL Alaska, SOHIO Alaska, ARCO USA, ARCO Alaska, Bow Valley Resources Canada, Petro Canada and Arctic Transportation Canada. Further advice and technical assistance came from Dome Petroleum, Canmar Canada and Amoco Canada as well as the Canadian Government.

In 1985 construction of the full-scale Arctic Escape System prototype began. Oil industry engineers and operational managers inspected the construction process on a monthly basis. The first open-water trials of the completed prototype began in February 1986 and carried on through the month of May from the Canadian Coast Guard Search and Rescue Hovercraft Center in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

After the first trials were complete the Craft was trucked to the Arctic to begin an exhaustive year of offshore amphibious mobility trials in every conceivable condition. The highlight of these trials was the successful trial-evacuation of Esso’s Kaubvik Island to the Canadian coastline in a 20-hour transit over and through some of the most severe shear-zone ice conditions.

Upon arriving in the Arctic the Craft was christened the “ARKTOS”, now a registered trademark of ARKTOS Developments Ltd., which ultimately grew from the Watercraft group of companies.


ARKTOS® Craft – Production Stage

ARKTOS Developments Ltd.’s first sale was to the Canadian Coast Guard (Photo below). Two of these Craft were planned to be on board the Polar 8 Icebreaker – had it been built. Although the Polar 8 Project was cancelled, this first model has been used for demonstration, service work and testing ever since. Oil prices dropped to below $10 a barrel and exploration in the Canadian Arctic was postponed.


The next sales were made into China for amphibious seismic survey work, where the temperatures reached +40 C, the complete opposite of the harsh cold climate in the Arctic. ARKTOS Craft were the only Craft that could operate safely offshore, in shallow water, deep mud and quicksand found in the Bohai Delta.


In 1997, ARKTOS Developments Ltd. received an inquiry from a drilling company that was going to be operating in the North Caspian Sea for an oil company consortium. To be able to operate year round, these Craft were needed due to the ice conditions found in the winter months as well as the protection needed from the significant threat of H2S Gas found in this region.

Since that time, more ARKTOS Evacuation Craft have been sold for the North Caspian Sea and also for three different oil companies based in the US Beaufort Sea in Alaska.


The latest production ARKTOS Craft is a 50 tonne ARKTOS MultiTask Craft. This particular model was originally designed to be an Amphibious Crane Craft; however, this Craft is now primarily used as an amphibious ice-breaker. This “workhorse” could be used for many applications; such as, oil spill response, pipeline service, ice management, river ice-jam support, ice road construction and maintenance, ice island construction, amphibious tug, cargo carrying, and windfarm services.



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