New Jersey based Coast Guard Cutter to deploy to Great Lakes for ice breaking

NEW YORK — The 19-member crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Penobscot Bay, an ice breaking tug from Bayonne, N.J., is deploying to the waters of the Great Lakes to assist with seasonal ice breaking operations on Dec. 7, 2009.

The deployment, which is scheduled to last roughly five months, is the result of forecasted ice breaking requirements in the area, and consists of two major operations, Operation Taconite and Operation Coal Shovel. The cutter’s crew will base their ice breaking operations out of Cleveland, Ohio, for the duration of the trip.

Together these operations direct icebreaking resources to the highest priority areas based on the most current ice conditions, ensuring the most efficient movement of commercial ships through the Great Lakes.

During ice breaking season, the Coast Guard provides critical services such as search and rescue, flood control and the facilitation of navigation to meet the reasonable demands of commerce. This also includes breaking ice for ferries that serve ice bound communities and ensuring critical supplies of food, heating oil, or access to medical assistance is uninterrupted.

The shipping industry, principally the Lake Carrier’s Association and Canadian Ship owner’s Association, comprises approximately 18 companies with 63 U.S.-flagged ships representing various industries such as steel, coal, heating oil and grain. The Coast Guard’s icebreaking services enable these shippers to transport an average of two billion dollars worth of cargo each winter.

The 140-foot Bay Class icebreaking tugs, such as the Penobscot Bay, can break 22 inches of ice continuously at three and a half mph, and can break thicker ice using a back-and-ram technique.

Operation Taconite and Operation Coal Shovel encompass all five Great Lakes and the St. Mary’s River, the Straits of Mackinac, the St. Clair/Detroit River systems and the St. Lawrence Seaway. The Coast Guard has scheduled other cutters with the same capabilities of the Penobscot Bay to handle the crew’s workload while they are deployed.

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