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Polar expedition company announces plans to expand, make Sydney Harbour its home port

One Ocean Expeditions will take possession of a new polar research and cruise ship next fall, and will name it RCGS Resolute, in honour of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and the historic British Arctic exploration vessel and community in Nunavut that carry the same name.

SYDNEY — By next fall, a second cruise ship dock is expected to be open adjacent to the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion and Andrew Prossin's One Ocean Expeditions will take possession of a third polar research and cruise ship.

On Monday, the British Columbia-based company's first vessel, Akademik Ioffe, was docked at the marine terminal, where Prossin announced plans to expand his Arctic and Antarctic ecotour business and to base his operations out of Sydney Harbour, bringing about $6 million annually in provisioning and wharfage business to the port.

Once the new ship, to be called RCGS Resolute, is in operation, Prossin said he expects his business to double, generating even more revenue for the port in his hometown.

"What does that mean for One Ocean?" said the company's founder and CEO, who grew up in Westmount, directly across the harbour from the Sydney marine terminal. "We'll add more itineraries. We may become not just a polar operator. We may have to start operating some other warmer-water trips.

"Our clients are asking for other destinations. Our clients drove us here, by the way. Our clients wanted to come around the Maritimes.

"That means One Ocean will more than double in size in the next two to three years, and we're going to try and do that all right here in Cape Breton.

"We're so excited. This is about the biggest thing we've ever done and we're so pleased. I'm just giddy to be able to do it here in Cape Breton."

About two years ago, Prossin brought the Akademik Ioffe to Louisbourg Harbour and began offering tours around the Gulf of St. Lawrence. He also began stopping in Sydney for some supplies, although most provisions are still purchased in Halifax.

Prossin said in May he would start operating out of Sydney Harbour permanently if fuel was made available.

"This year, we've got three voyages departing from Cape Breton, and next year we'll have five," he said, which will add another element to the cruise ship traffic in Sydney Harbour.

"All of those big ships come and go. ... I think you've got about 100 or so cruise visits, but this company, One Ocean, these cruises, this is where they belong."

Mayor Cecil Clarke said the announcement will result in increased revenue for the port and for businesses in Cape Breton, and will bring more visitors to the island.

The Port of Sydney Development Corp. is in the process of building a $20-million second cruise ship berth for the downtown waterfront and Clarke said plans are underway to include infrastructure that will allow ships to refuel in Sydney Harbour — something that is not available.

Port officials are also in talks with the private sector about the possibility of adding fuelling facilities at the docks, he said.

Prossin said he is confident fuel will be available by the time his company launches its third vessel.

RCGS Resolute One OceanOne Ocean Expeditions announced on Monday it will take possession of a new polar research and cruise ship, to be named RCGS Resolute, in fall 2018, giving the company a third vessel for its Arctic and Antarctic ecotours. (TOM AYERS / Local Xpress)

Along with the Ioffe, One Ocean Expeditions has a second ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov. The third ship will be named RCGS Resolute to recognize One Ocean's partnership with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

All three were built in Finland and are designed to operate in ice conditions while accommodating scientists and polar researchers. They also have comfortable accommodations and luxury amenities for passengers wishing to follow along on research trips and take part in outdoor activities that include wildlife photography, sea kayaking and camping.

Society CEO John Geiger, who was on hand for Monday's dockside announcement, said the new ship's name was chosen to honour the British Royal Navy's historic vessel HMS Resolute, as well as the Nunavut community of the same name.

The Resolute was specially outfitted in 1850 for Arctic exploration and was involved in two major searches for the lost Franklin expedition, said Geiger.

One of Prossin's vessels provided support for the recent Parks Canada expeditions that found Franklin's HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, ships that were beset by ice and lost in the fabled Northwest Passage in 1847.

"The Royal Canadian Geographical Society is proud to have One Ocean Expeditions as its exclusive travel partner, and we're proud that Resolute will become the first ship to carry the society's name," Geiger said.