This hasn't gotten a lot of attention in the Lower 48 and it might come as a shock to some, but Canada is militarizing its Arctic frontier. In early May the Canadian government awarded the contract for six to eight ice-capable Arctic-class offshore patrol ships to BMT Fleet Technology Ltd., in Kanata, Ontario. BMT was awarded the engineering, logistics and management support portion of the project. It's no small project--Canada has budgeted $7.3 billion for the ships and a support base. When completed and melded into the Royal Canadian military, the patrol vessels will be there to protect Canada's claim to the Northwest Passage. That's the key in this unusual drama playing out at the top of the world. Seems global warming could see an ice-free Northwest Passage in less than 10 years. An ice-free Northwest Passage is a sea captain's dream. It could mean shaving as many as 4,000 miles off a ship -- including oil and LNG tankers -- from a trip from Europe to the Pacific and from there to the U.S. East Coast. That translates into incredible savings for a company that is renting one of these giant tankers. The LNG tankers that are being built in the 245,000 and 265,000 cubic meter range are too large to travel through the Panama Canal. So, an ice-free Northwest Passage, even if clear of ice just part of the year, could turn the waterway into a maritime interstate. That's where Canada says no. Under the current federal leadership, the Canadians have said the Northwest Passage is an internal waterway and not an international highway. The Canadians have not really forgiven the U.S. and Russia when it was learned in the mid-1990s that both nations had been sending nuclear-armed submarines under the waterway for a number of years. "Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic," wrote Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "Either we use it or we lose it. And make no mistake -- this government intends to use it." In addition to the Northwest Passage, Harper has said Canada has claims to what he called untold oil and gas resources under the ice that will soon become available for E&P as the ice sheet continues to melt. In addition to the eight warships, which will mount rapid-fire cannons, the Canadians are opening up an army training center for cold-weather warfare at Resolute Bay and a deepwater port on the northern tip of Baffin Island. They are also in the middle of a purchase plan to buy a squadron of all-weather C-17 Globemaster air transports. This little squabble is just getting started. Watch for future developments including Canada challenging Russia's claim to most of the top of the world. –John A. Sullivan, News Editor, Oil and Gas Investor,,