Coast Guard icebreaking fleet works hard to maintain commerce

CLEVELAND – As frigid winter weather continues to assault the nation, U.S. Coast Guardsmen are braving the elements and working hard aboard Great Lakes icebreakers, where they remain ready for maritime emergencies and ready to clear waterways for commerce.

Every year, icebreakers throughout the Great Lakes facilitate the safe transport of cargo with an average total economic value of more than $2 billion.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved a request by the shipping industry to extend lock operations at Sault Ste. Marie beyond the scheduled closure date of Jan. 15 to midnight on Jan. 18 due to late season demand for iron ore and coal resulting from improved economic conditions. Coast Guard icebreaker crews will continue to lead the way and clear channels to get those vessels to their destination ports so they can deliver their cargo.

Nine U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers and two Canadian coast guard icebreakers have been engaged in Operations Coal Shovel and Taconite, the two largest domestic ice breaking operations, since early December.

The Coast Guard conducts domestic ice breaking operations for four basic purposes: search and rescue, urgent response to vessels, exigent community service requests, and the facilitation of navigation to meet the reasonable demands of commerce. Exigent community service requests include flood control and opening channels to icebound communities or breaking ice for the ferries that serve them in order to ensure critical supplies of food or heating oil or access to medical assistance is maintained.

Operations Taconite and Coal Shovel ensure the most efficient movement of vessels through the entire Great Lakes region. Based on ice conditions, assets are dedicated to specific areas in coordination with our international partners and commercial ice breaking services.

Every Ninth Coast Guard District icebreaker crew is busy breaking ice and freeing vessels. They are:

* Cutter Mackinaw, a 240-foot seagoing buoy tender/icebreaker homeported in Cheboygan, Mich.,
* Cutter Biscayne Bay, a 140-foot ice breaking tug homeported in St. Ignace, Mich.,
* Cutter Bristol Bay, a 140-foot ice breaking tug homeported in Detroit,
* Cutter Katmai Bay, a 140-foot ice breaking tug homeported in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.,
* Cutter Mobile Bay, a 140-foot ice breaking tug homeported in Sturgeon Bay, Wis.,
* Cutter Neah Bay, a 140-foot ice breaking tug homeported in Cleveland,
* Cutter Alder, a 225-foot seagoing buoy tender homeported in Duluth, Minn.,
* Cutter Hollyhock, a 225-foot seagoing buoy tender homeported in Port Huron, Mich.

An additional icebreaker from the First Coast Guard District has been temporarily assigned to the Great Lakes region. The crew of Cutter Morro Bay, a 140-foot ice breaking tug homeported in New London, Conn., will augment the other Coast Guard icebreakers operating throughout the season.

Maintaining a 1,500-mile international border with Canada requires special collaboration to keep shared waterways safe, secure and clear. As such, Canadian coast guard ships Samuel Risley and Griffon are working with U.S. crews to accomplish operations Taconite and Coal Shovel.

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