Friday, May 18, 2012

Domestic Icebreaking Operations—Part 1

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by LT Benjamin Morgan, mobility and ice operations, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Maritime Transportation Systems.

Domestic icebreaking operations are important for maritime mobility and support our national transportation infrastructure.

Operations include:

  • establishing and maintaining tracks (paths through the ice) in connecting waterways during the winter navigation season,
  • escorting vessels to ensure their transit is not impeded by ice,
  • freeing vessels that become beset,
  • clearing/relieving ice jams,
  • removing obstructions or hazards to navigation,
  • advising mariners of current ice and waterways conditions.
This vital icebreaking mission is executed domestically by one heavy icebreaker, nine ice-breaking tugs, 11 small harbor tugs, and 12 ice-capable buoy-tending vessels.

International Icebreaking Cooperation
In addition to U.S. Coast Guard assets, the Canadian Coast Guard operates two icebreakers on the Great Lakes.

The USCG and Canadian Coast Guard keep each other advised on the location and status of icebreaking facilities/assets and coordinate operations to keep critical waterways open for commerce. A cooperative agreement between our two nations allows the assets from one country to conduct icebreaking operations in the territorial waters of the other, as necessary.

East Coast Icebreaking
Along the East Coast, icebreaking generally occurs to facilitate deliveries of home heating oil, critical supplies in isolated communities, and ferry services in its busiest ports.
During January and February, East Coast ports can receive more than 15 million tons of petroleum products, food, and other cargo. Nearly 70 percent of the home heating oil in the U.S. is used in the Northeast, and 90 percent must travel by barge.

The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw breaks ice in tandem with the Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay on Lake St. Clair during Operation Coal Shovel. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Guillermo Colom.
Find out about icebreaking on the Great Lakes in part 2.

Full article is available at