Cutters free four bulkers caught in ice on Lake Erie

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

(CLEVELAND) — U.S. Coast Guard cutters Neah Bay and Morro Bay, 140-foot bay-class icebreaking tugs home-ported in Cleveland, freed multiple vessels beset by ice in western Lake Erie and the St. Clair River on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The cold temperatures over Lake Erie caused ice to form rapidly over the lake leading to the motor vessels John J. Boland, Hon. Paul J. Martin, Indiana Harbor and James R. Barker to become stuck in ice.

Coast Guard cutters stationed on the Great Lakes support the service’s domestic icebreaking mission through annual operations Taconite and Coal Shovel. 

Commerce across Lake Erie is kept moving by U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard cutters providing icebreaking assistance in support of Operation Coal Shovel. Operation Coal Shovel encompasses not only Lake Erie, but also supports waterways in southern Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair/Detroit River system, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway and is coordinated out of Coast Guard Sector Detroit.

John J. Boland first became stuck in ice in western Lake Erie late Monday, and was broken out of the ice by Morro Bay at approximately 8:45 a.m. Wednesday.

Indiana Harbor was beset by ice in the Middle Channel, St. Clair River, on Tuesday, and was  broken out of ice by Neah Bay.

Hon. Paul J. Martin became beset by ice in western Lake Erie on Tuesday, and was broken out by Morro Bay.

James R. Barker was first beset by ice in western Lake Erie and broken out by the tug Calusa Coast on Tuesday, but it subsequently became beset again and was freed of the ice by Morro Bay.

Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and as a result, the fastest to freeze.

Currently, ice coverage on Lake Erie is over 20 percent, well above the seasonal norm of 5 percent. Weather reports indicate that Lake Erie will build up more ice over the next week. With the shipping season set to end on Jan. 15, Coast Guard cutters will continue to break ice to ensure that waterways stay navigable for cargo ships on the Great Lakes.

The Coast Guard's icebreaking mission includes not only facilitation of commercial navigation, but also the provision of icebreaking services for search and rescue, emergency operations and flood mitigation. 

By Professional Mariner Staff