The Canadian military kicked off a series of training exercises in the Arctic Monday to prepare for situations that may arise as a result of increased traffic in the region.
More than 500 troops including the air, land and sea are taking part in Operation Nanook 08, said Brig-Gen. David Millar, commander of Joint Task Force North.
"Our purpose is to exert sovereignty, demonstrate sovereignty and security but also learn how to live off the land and learn more about the operating environment here in the North," Millar told reporters in Iqaluit, capital of the Nunavut territory.
The exercises will simulate three different scenarios, namely an outbreak of disease on a cruise ship, a hostage-taking on a cruise ship and a fuel spill, and lastly a fire on a Russian cargo ship, Millar said.
The annual exercise is growing in importance because activity in the North is rapidly increasing, he said.
"The Canadian Forces, along with our other government departments, need to be ready to respond to... threats such as environmental accidents, oil spills (and) potentially communicable disease outbreaks on a cruise ship," he said.
Two warships have been deployed for the exercise as well as airforce Twin Otters and Aurora surveillance planes. A record number of civilian agencies, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canadian Border Services Agency, are also participating, Millar said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will also arrive at the Arctic Tuesday. This will be his fourth visit there in three years, showing Canada's mounting efforts in exerting sovereignty in the area, observers say.