U.S. icebreaker begins Northwest Passage voyage

Posted: Friday, April 28, 2000

OTTAWA (AP) -- A U.S. ship built for traveling through ice-packed polar waters has started a rare trip through Canada's disputed Northwest Passage.

The voyage by the U.S. Coast Guard ship Healy is the fourth by an American-flagged vessel through the passage since Canada and the United States signed an arctic cooperation agreement in 1988.

The Healy left Halifax, Nova Scotia, on April 3 and was expected to complete its journey in July.

The question of who controls the icy link between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans has remained unresolved. The United States has never recognized Canada's 1973 claim of the Northwest Passage as an internal Canadian waterway.

Canadian scientists aboard the Healy plan to collect data on polar ice and test scientific equipment and the new ship's performance in arctic conditions, officials in Ottawa said.

Before the cooperation agreement, two U.S. ships sent without permission -- the oil tanker Manhattan in 1969 and the icebreaker Polar Sea in 1985 -- caused disputes between the neighboring countries.

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