Coast Guard kicks off icebreaking season for Great Lakes, Northeast


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

(SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich.) — On the Great Lakes, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie commenced Operation Taconite on Friday in response to expanded ice growth in the commercial ports of western Lake Superior and the lower St. Marys River. Before ice impedes commercial navigation, icebreakers were assigned to each region.

Coast Guard cutter Alder was assigned to manage the ice breaking needs of western Lake Superior, specifically the twin ports of Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wis., as well as the Port of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Coast Guard cutter Biscayne Bay was assigned to the St. Marys River. In the coming days as ice growth expands on the Great Lakes, additional Coast Guard icebreakers will join the operation.

Operation Taconite is the Coast Guard’s largest domestic icebreaking operation. The operation encompasses Lake Superior, St. Marys River, the Straits of Mackinac, Georgian Bay, and Lake Michigan. In the coming weeks, various commercial waterways may close after due consideration is given to the protection of the marine environment, the need for cross-channel traffic (e.g. ferries) and the safety of the island residents; who, in the course of their daily business, traditionally use naturally formed ice bridges for transportation to and from the mainland.

The implementation of Operation Taconite places additional movement criteria on commercial ships plying the western Great Lakes, St. Marys River, and the Straits of Mackinac. These measures include restricting tanker transits to daylight in the presence of ice, reducing speeds by two miles per hour in specified locations to reduce incidental ice breaking, and requiring additional voice and position reporting points throughout the operation’s area of responsibility. The Coast Guard recommends all recreational ice users plan their activities carefully, dress appropriately, use caution on the ice and stay away from shipping channels. Recreational users and island residents should stay tuned to local media resources for the status of regional waterway closures.

In the Northeast, the Coast Guard kicked off its icebreaking season Monday, as winter’s cold temperatures are anticipated to impact every port, waterway, and harbor in the region.

Operation Reliable Energy for Northeast Winters (RENEW) is the Coast Guard's regionwide effort to ensure Northeast communities have the security, supplies, energy, and emergency resources they need throughout the winter.

During the Coast Guard’s 2017-2018 winter icebreaking season, the Coast Guard will conduct icebreaking operations for several reasons, with the priorities being:

• Ports and waterways/search and rescue. Facilitate security operations or help prevent loss of life on the water or ashore.

• Urgent response to vessels. Address situations which have a high probability of becoming hazardous.

• Exigent community services. Support communities that have need for fuel (petroleum, LPG, LNG), food, and medical supplies, and assist in preventing or easing flood conditions.

• Facilitation of navigation. Meet the “reasonable demands of commerce.” Coast Guard crews are also replacing aids to navigation with special ice buoys designed to ride underneath ice floes and remain on location.

• Other missions including crew training and proficiency, research and development, and science missions.

This year, Coast Guard cutters are again poised to work hard to keep vital shipping lanes open to commercial traffic. Of the heating oil used in the country, 85 percent is consumed in the Northeast, 90 percent of that is delivered by barge.

To conduct Operation RENEW, Coast Guard crews will use the following resources: 140-foot seagoing icebreaking tugs; 65-foot small harbor tugs; U.S. Coast Guard aircraft, and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary aircraft.

In moderate to severe seasons: 225-foot buoy tender, 175-foot buoy tender, 49-foot buoy utility stern loading (BUSL) boat.

A coordinated effort with the maritime industry ensured the vital ports of the Northeast have remained open every year since Op RENEW has been executed.

By Professional Mariner Staff