Captain David "Duke" Snider: President of The Nautical Institute

by John MacFarlane 2017

Duke Snider

Captain David "Duke" Sider (Photo from the Duke Snider collection. )

In the world of professional mariners the Nautical Institute is one of the leaders in advancing profession–driven standards by mariners themselves. In January 2017 the first President of the Institute from North America, Captain David "Duke" Snider who comes from Victoria BC, took office. This may mark the start of a new era in global ice navigation as he focuses his energy into working toward higher standards.

The Nautical Institute is a non–governmental organization (NGO) with consultative status at the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Their aim is to represent seafarers’ and practical maritime professionals’ views at the highest level. As a representative body, the Institute fulfills its role in many different ways. Membership by proven qualifications and experience helps to set standards. The technical committees ensure that professional opinion and advice is fed back to the industry’s decision making bodies.

CCGS Sir Wilfred Laurier

The CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier (Photo from the collection. )

Captain Snider, an experienced ice navigator from Canada with 30 years in naval, commercial and Canadian Coast Guard shipping, joined The Nautical Institute in 1989 while studying for his Watch Keeping Mate’s certificate of competency at Camosun College. Duke has long been a director of The Nautical Institute’s British Columbia Branch and has been an active and enthusiastic member of Council. He was elected Senior Vice–President at the 2014 AGM and President at the 2016 AGM.


His work has brought him in close contact with groups as Diverse as The Canadian Rangers, a sub-component of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Reserve who are the military’s eyes and ears in the north.(Photo from the collection. )

He received his Master Mariner certificate of competency in 1997 and is a member of the Company of Master Mariners of Canada. Duke holds a holds a Bachelor of Marine Studies degree from Memorial University of Newfoundland, is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and is an internationally recognised expert in ice navigation. As author of Polar Ship Operations, Duke expects to see the start of the Institute’s Ice Navigator Training Accreditation and Certification schemes, which complement the IMO Polar Code Polar Waters Training programmes during his time as President.

Snider’s started my career as an Officer Cadet in the Canadian Navy in 1977 where he says he was thoroughly bitten by the seafarer bug, training on minesweepers and destroyers. His first foreign going voyage was onboard HMCS Saskatchewan as OCDT/Midship during SAMPLOY 77, visiting ports of call in the United States, Mexico, Peru and Ecuador. After a brief phase ashore he joined the Canadian Coast Guard in 1979 as a Deck hand.

Snider’s civilian career started in 1979 as a Deck Hand in the CCGS Vancouver, a weather ship stationed at Ocean Station Papa. He really enjoyed the work and was soon qualified as Leading Seaman. In 1981 he transferred to R–class Coast Guard cutters and with his sea time he attended Camosun College for his Watch-keeping Mate–s Ticket. One step at a time he worked his way up through the Mate’s positions gaining sea time and experience. He says he served in every vessel then in the Coast guard’s Pacific fleet.

Serving time in the Mackenzie River he caught the ‘Arctic bug’ and made the decision to pursue ice navigation. He served in the CCGS Martha Black in the Arctic exposing him to the demands of ice navigation.

He took time out of his Coast Guard service to work with the Canarctic Shipping Company Limited 1995–1997 as Second Officer in the MV Arctic – a 30,000dwt Canadian Arctic Class 4 Equivalent OBO Bulk Carrier giving him concentrate, petroleum product and crude oil cargo experience in late and early season high Arctic and midwinter mid Arctic multi–year ice operations. They carried out foreign–going trade between North America North, Central and Southern Europe and North Africa. He also served as their Operations Development Coordinator on Arctic joint ventures, undertaking feasibility studies and working on ice navigation standards. He was a key player in the development of the Polar Code of 1995 – which he says was only adopted then as a guideline and was not made mandatory.

W.E. Ricker

The C.C.G.S. W.W. Ricker (Photo from the Duke Snider collection. )

While serving in the bulk carrier M.V. Arctic he gained his Master (Foreign Going) a qualification which enabled him to go on to command the CGS W.E. Ricker. Returning to the Coast Guard he served in senior management positions which gave him a wide spectrum of first-hand knowledge of all relevant statutes, regulations, codes and orders. This grounding provides the first-hand knowledge so valuable to him in his global work.


Exercising with a Helicopter (Photo from the Duke Snider collection. )

He served as Commanding Officer in the CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier, CCGS John P Tully, CCGS W. E. Ricker, CCGS Tanu, CCGS Gordon Reid, CCGS Vector, CCGC Point Henry and the CCGC Ready. He proudly states that over the years he served in all of the Coast Guard fleet in the Pacific at the time of his service. He retired from Canadian Coast Guard service as Regional Director Fleet Western Region in 2013.

CCGC  Ready

The CCGC Ready (Photo from the Duke Snider collection. )

In 1994 he formed Martech Polar Consulting Ltd. a Victoria-based company with a global reach, providing global ice navigation services and support for polar shipping, ice navigation, polar research, expedition logistics support and ice related consulting services. Martech Polar provides Ice Navigators on cargo, research, cruise and private yachts in ice covered waters world–wide. His team of professional Master Mariners all have on–board ice navigation and ice pilotage experience in Arctic, Eastern Canada and Baltic ice infested waters. He is qualified as an expert witness in Marine Insurance Arbitration with respect to ice navigation and polar operations.

International Group

An International Working Group (Photo from the Duke Snider collection. )

Today Captain Snider is the CEO and Principal Consultant of Martech Polar Consulting, Ltd. His team provide ice navigation expertise to companies operating in the polar zone giving them a competitive edge as they exploit new economic opportunities in the Arctic. To operate safely and sustainably in these harsh navigation conditions his team of highly experienced and trained Master Mariners

Diomede Island

At the Diomede Islands. They are located in the middle of the Bering Strait between mainland Alaska and Siberia The islands are separated by an international border, which is also part of the International Date Line, (Photo from the Duke Snider collection. )

He still gets sea time each year, although his duties as President of the Nautical Institute may interfere with that for the next two years. He says that in spite of increasing public attention to issues of Arctic Navigation there are still many myths in the public mind that need to be dispelled. He feels this new position is ideal to accomplish just that – to give a balanced picture of marine issues and operations in polar conditions. For the next two years (2017-2019) he will travel the world advancing the work of the Nautical Institute and his agenda of Polar Ice Navigation.

Polar Star

On board the MSV Fennica as we transited the Northwest Passage during a momentous passage in 2015. He says "I am with Captain Mike Davanzo who was the Commanding Officer of USCGC Polar Star. The Polar Star (WAGB–10) in the Northwest Passage 2015. She is a United States Coast Guard Heavy Icebreaker commissioned in 1976, the ship was built by Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company of Seattle, WA." (Photo from the Duke Snider collection. )

Captain Snider was very proud to tell me that he still gets significant amounts of sea time each year (something he clearly loves) in Arctic waters. We hope that he will be able to fit in more service over the next two years as he balances his duties with the Nautical Institute with his professional duties at sea.

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2017) Captain David "Duke" Snider: President of The Nautical Institute 2017.

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