As climate change progresses, the Arctic Ocean creates opportunities for new resource development and navigation routes. Such economic opportunities are attractive, but carry with them an increased risk of accidents and oil spills. Existing methods of emergency response face enormous challenges in the Arctic because of its lack of transportation infrastructure and support services. Cargo airships offer a practical solution. Many airship designs are proposed that can carry over 30 tons, travel long distances at 150 km per hour, and land close to the emergency site. However, it is difficult to justify the economics of having enough capacity waiting and available to be marshaled in response to infrequent events. One solution is to develop a synergy with a new civilian cargo airship industry that can serve the regular transport needs of remote communities and mining operations. Through contingency contracts with these civilian operations, the Government of Canada could stretch its budgets and have access to the latest airship models and trained crews at locations across the Arctic. This paper gives valuable insight into the development of cargo airships. Advances in technology that make cargo airships a practical option in the 21st century are reviewed, and five competing airship designs are discussed. A case study of an existing rare earth mine proposal is used to illustrate the cost comparison of roads versus airships that could provide contingency services.
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