Coast Guard ice breaking efforts complete a busy operational week

CLEVELAND – Ninth Coast Guard District cutters concluded a busy week of ice breaking operations on the Great Lakes, Friday, with a majority of this week’s operations occurring on the Lake St. Clair River system.

A combination of five U.S. Coast Guard cutters broke paths for nearly 20 commercial vessels in the Lake St. Clair River system, which includes Lake St. Clair and the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers. All of the cutters opened channels and ensured the delivery of critical supplies of food and heating oil.

This week, Jan. 11-15, 2010, the Coast Guard facilitated approximately $80 million in commerce vital to the Great Lakes economy. In particular, Coast Guard cutters on Jan. 12, 2010, assisted freighters carrying 300,000 tons of cargo with an estimated value of $20 million.

“The ice choked up the St. Clair River this year much sooner than usual, and we recommended that shippers not transit without a Coast Guard escort,” said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Donahue, Chief of Domestic Ice Breaking, Ninth Coast Guard District. “At the end of the day, it’s all about getting people their product there safely.”

U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Neah Bay, homeported in Cleveland; Penobscot Bay, homeported in Bayonne, N.J., but temporarily homeported here for the winter; Hollyhock, homeported in Port Huron, Mich.; the Bristol Bay, homeported in Detroit, and the Mackinaw, homeported in Cheboygan, Mich., coordinated operations to create navigable tracks for commercial vessels to transit. The commercial vessels then transited one after another in an order determined by each vessel’s horsepower.

All five cutters were underway in support of Operation Coal Shovel, which encompasses southern Lake Huron, St. Clair/Detroit River systems and Lakes Erie and Ontario, including the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Operation Taconite, the other ice breaking mission on the Great Lakes, encompasses Lake Superior, the St. Marys River, the Straits of Mackinac, Lake Michigan and northern Lake Huron.

The Coast Guard Cutters Katmai Bay and Biscayne Bay, under Operation Taconite, assisted the towing vessel Algocanada, while the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon assisted the Neebish Island Ferry.

Operations Coal Shovel and Taconite are based on the statutory authorities of 14 USC 2, 14 USC 88 and 14 USC 141. Both direct ice breaking resources to the highest priority areas and missions based on the most current ice conditions.

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