Coast Guard icebreakers begin seasonal Great Lakes duty

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The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(DETROIT) — The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards have commenced Operation Coal Shovel, seasonal domestic icebreaking operations in the southern part of Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair and Detroit River systems, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, starting Thursday.

The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers work together to prevent ice jams in these vital economic waterways as conditions worsen throughout the winter.

Ice jams can create a disruption to the flow of maritime commerce, so the icebreakers work diligently to flush ice down the river to facilitate transportation of vital winter cargoes. U.S. and Canadian crewmembers coordinate, conduct and track maintenance, provide vessel assistance and conduct flushing operations to minimize the potential for residential flooding. The mission of Operation Coal Shovel is to quickly reopen the Great Lakes maritime transportation system for the movement of commercial vessels that may become beset in the ice.  

The winter of 2013-2014 presented some of the harshest ice conditions ever recorded in the Great Lakes. At one point during March 2014, 92.5 percent of the Great Lakes were covered by ice; this was the highest percentage of ice coverage seen since 1979. Operation Coal Shovel started in December 2013 and lasted for 128 days.

The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards played a vital role in allowing the movement of vital iron ore, coal, salt, limestone, oil derivatives, cement and other cargoes during those historic ice conditions.

As Operation Coal Shovel begins, the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards will continue to monitor potential hazardous ice conditions and conduct icebreaking operations throughout the Great Lakes.

By Professional Mariner Staff