Coast Guard commences Operation Coal Shovel

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay, homeported in Cleveland, works to keep the CSL Laurentien moving during an escort in eastern Lake Erie March 27, 2014. The crew experienced plate ice as thick as 3 feet and ice ridges as tall as 8 feet. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of CSL Laurentien)

File photo of the Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay breaking ice during Operation Coal Shovel 2014.

DETROIT – The U.S. Coast Guard began Operation Coal Shovel on Monday, January 10, 2022.

Operation Coal Shovel is the domestic ice-breaking operation with an area of responsibility spanning from southern Lake Huron, to Lake St. Clair, to the St. Clair / Detroit River system and into Lake Erie and Lake Ontario including the St. Lawrence Seaway.

U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers work together in these waterways as conditions worsen throughout the winter to ensure the ability to conduct search-and-rescue, community service, and the facilitation of navigation to meet the reasonable demands of commerce.

Both the U.S. and Canadian fleets also assist with flood mitigation efforts when requested to do so from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, other emergency operations include opening channels to icebound communities or breaking ice for the ferries that serve them in order to ensure critical supplies of food, heating oil or access to medical assistance is maintained.

Sector Detroit provides command and control for Operation Coal Shovel, and may place restrictions or close waterways as ice conditions dictate. Due consideration is given to the need for cross channel traffic (e.g. ferries), the availability of icebreakers, and the safety of the island residents who use naturally formed ice bridges for transportation to and from the mainland.

As the 2022 Operation Coal Shovel season begins, Coast Guard Sector Detroit and the Canadian Coast Guard will continue to monitor potentially hazardous ice conditions and conduct ice breaking operations throughout the Great Lakes. Furthermore, phone conferences are conducted regularly with maritime shipping company representatives to coordinate ice breaking services and facilitate the movement of commercial vessels.

The Coast Guard recommends all recreational ice users plan their activities carefully, use caution on the ice, and stay away from shipping channels. Waterway users and island residents should stay tuned to local media resources for the status of channel closures.

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