Coast Guard begins nation’s largest buoy retrieval operation

Great Lakes Coast Guard NewsCLEVELAND — In anticipation of the coming ice season and to ensure the safety of vessels transiting the Great Lakes Basin, the Ninth Coast Guard District has begun its annual retrieval of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway System seasonal aids to navigation, the largest domestic aids to navigation recovery operation in the United States.

Personnel participating in Operation Fall Retrieval are:

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay, Sturgeon Bay, Wis. Aids-to-Navigation Team Duluth, Minn.
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay, Detroit Aids-to-Navigation Team Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Buckthorn, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Station/Aids to Navigation Team Muskegon, Mich.
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock, Port Huron, Mich. Station/Aids-to-Navigation Team Portage, Mich.
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, Cheboygan, Mich. Station/Aids-to-Navigation Team Saginaw River
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder, Duluth, Minn. Station/Aids-to-Navigation Team Two Rivers, Wis.
Aids-to-Navigation Team Kenosha, Wis. Station/Aids-to-Navigation Team St. Ignace, Mich.
Aids-to-Navigation Team Buffalo, N.Y. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation
Aids to Navigation Team Detroit The Lamplighters, a civilian group

Operation Fall Retrieve, which includes lighted and unlighted buoys and beacons, commenced Oct. 14, 2012, with a goal of retrieving 1,282 navigational aids, and should be completed by Dec. 28, 2012. The aids, approximately half in the region, are taken out of service during the winter months due to decreased vessel traffic and to minimize damage from ice and severe weather.

The Ninth Coast Guard District’s aids to navigation system facilitates safe and efficient maritime activity in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway region by marking safe passage for domestic, international, commercial and recreational vessel traffic. The Coast Guard manages 3,127 fixed and floating federal aids in the region.

The waters of the United States and its territories are marked to assist navigation by the U.S. Aids-to-Navigation System. This system employs a simple arrangement of colors, shapes, numbers and light characteristics to mark navigable channels, waterways and obstructions adjacent to them.

Aids to navigation can provide a boater with the same type of information drivers get from street signs, stop signals, road barriers, detours and traffic lights. These aids may be anything from lighted structures, beacons, day markers, range lights, fog signals and landmarks to floating buoys. Each has a purpose and helps in determining location, getting from one place to another or staying out of danger.

To accomplish the aids to navigation mission, the Ninth Coast Guard District employs six Coast Guard cutters, five Aids-to-Navigation Teams; five small boat stations with aids-to-navigation duties; the Lamplighters, civilian employees who manage the inland waters of Northern Minnesota; and Canadian Coast Guard partners and the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

In addition, the Ninth District Coast Guard Auxiliary helps inspect approximately 3,000 privately-owned aids to navigation in the region.

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