Maine based Coast Guard cutter to deploy to Great Lakes

PORTLAND, Maine – A Rockland, Maine, Coast Guard cutter is scheduled to deploy to the Great Lakes Sunday to assist with ice breaking operations there.

The Coast Guard Cutter Thunder Bay, a 140-foot ice breaking tug, is expected to begin operations around March 27 in support of the Ninth Coast Guard District’s request to break ice in the Great Lakes region as part of Operation Coal Shovel.

Due to colder than normal temperatures this year, the Ninth District, which encompasses an area from Duluth, Minn., to Alexandria Bay, N.Y., anticipates needing the Thunder Bay’s assistance with the high volume of ice predicted for this spring.

The Coast Guard conducts domestic ice breaking to aid in search and rescue and other emergency operations, mitigate flooding, and to meet the reasonable demands of commerce.

The shipping industry in the Great Lakes region is comprised of about 18 companies with 63 U.S.-flagged ships that represent industries such as steel, coal, heating oil, and grain. Coast Guard ice breaking services enable these shippers to transport an average of $2 billion worth of cargo each year.

“This is a unique opportunity to assist another region of the country that is experiencing a greater need this year, and we’re excited to do so,” said Capt. Jim McPherson, commander of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England.

The Coast Guard Cutter Morro Bay, which is the same class of cutter as Thunder Bay, will be on standby to break ice in Maine, including the annual break out of the Kennebec River in early April.

The Thunder Bay is expected to return to Maine in mid-May.

“The communities that the Thunder Bay serves can expect the same level of service during its deployment,” McPherson said. “Other missions the cutter regularly performs, such as search and rescue, fisheries enforcement, and maritime homeland security patrols, will be performed by other station and patrol boats, and larger cutters in the area to ensure there is minimal impact to our effectiveness.”

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