Coast Guard Commences Operation Coal Shovel

Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay cuts ice

Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay cuts ice in the Detroit River in this Operation Coal Shovel file photo. U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul Jaquish, Air Station Detroit.

DETROIT, MI – The U.S. Coast Guard commenced Operation Coal Shovel on Monday, December 26, 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, exigent 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 to ensure critical supplies of food, heating oil or access to medical assistance is maintained.

U.S. Coast Guard 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 2022-2023 Operation Coal Shovel season begins, 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 U.S. 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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