Text Size
Print Page
Print This Page
E-mail Page
Email This Page

Narwhal for Ice Management

As interest in potential hydrocarbon resources within the Arctic grows, oil companies and governments continue to search for more efficient ways to manage ice operations by extending the operating season while reducing ecological, environmental, and safety risks.

Narwhal, ION’s new system for ice management, addresses the complex challenges associated with operating in this harsh but fragile environment and provides ice visualization, analysis, tracking and risk mitigation tools for offshore Arctic operations. Narwhal is designed to enable vessel captains, ice pilots and analysts to combine and view multiple data sources to better visualize and predict ice conditions and better plan operations and mitigate risk

Extensive Arctic Experience

Narwhal was designed based on ION’s experience acquiring both multi-client and proprietary seismic data in the Arctic including:

  • More than 8 seasons 
  • 64,000 km of seismic lines 
  • 13 projects for oil companies and government agencies

Over 300 years of combined operational experience from ice captains Narwhal’s development also draws on:

  • Proprietary technology doubling the traditional operating season for our clients' and our own operations
  • 30 years of marine command and control systems technology and experience
  • Partnerships with ice captains and geospatial data providers to ensure the development of practical solutions for Arctic operations

Seismic Acquisition Operations

Narwhal provides a comprehensive view of the ice environment by integrating disparate data types such as satellite imagery, radar imagery, vector ice charts and visual observations with more standard vessel navigation data such as wind speed and sea conditions. This information enables ice captains and analysts to better assess operational risk by analyzing, tracking, and predicting ice conditions during seismic acquisition operations. Using a fully automated data link between vessels and onshore offices, as well as integration with navigational command and control systems, seismic vessels can adjust their acquisition configurations and plans in real-time to respond to their operational objectives and the ice conditions. The ability to understand and predict the environmental conditions can help minimize seismic acquisition costs as well as mitigate HSE risk. 

Arctic Drilling Operations

Narwhal allows operators to analyze, track, and forecast ice movement over time, allowing them to optimize platform operations, vessel route planning, and trafficability. Forecasting ice conditions and movements allows operators to take a proactive approach to ensure the safety of people and assets while reducing downtime or potential evacuation. Whether this means halting all platform production operations, rescheduling or rerouting support vessels, towing/diverting an ice threat to a safe distance, or planning specific vessel or platform “escape routes”, Narwhal integrates the data necessary to make tough but informed business decisions. Narwhal includes proactive alerting to potential threats/impacts, which helps to minimize HSE incidents, while an audit trail ensures easy compliance with Arctic reporting regulations.


Robust data inputs, far beyond traditional ice hazard radar, create a more accurate depiction of current conditions.  The data inputs are managed and visualized in multi-layer GIS displays and can be shared across the entire network to improve decision-making.  Typical data types include (but are not limited to):

  • Ice hazard radar 
  • Satellite imagery 
  • Ice charts and forecasts 
  • Metrological and sea conditions 
  • Air surveillance
  • Tracking devices First hand observations


Ice threats can be identified, logged and tracked over time to build prediction models for each ice threat. Alarm zones can be defined and continually monitored for ice threat breaches. Predictions, time to impact and time to react are considered as forecasted scenarios play out. The unique Narwhal Calendar adds a temporal aspect that brings data to life. As users ‘time-slide’ the calendar, the GIS displays update, showing data relevant to the queried time. This spatial and temporal combination is a powerful tool, allowing the user to perform historical analysis and forecasting.


Narwhal provides an automated, robust data link between vessels, platforms and even shore stations. This strong communication platform enables all parties to view and interpret critical data to enable informed decisions on operations. If an alarm is triggered, analysts across the operational network can plan and execute the risk mitigation strategy by assigning tasks to ice breakers and support vessels. Because all data inputs are time-stamped and logged, Narwhal provides comprehensive data management, reporting and auditing capabilities.