Coast Guard marks important milestone as shipping season begins

CCGS vessels are being deployed in support of reopening for St. Lawrence Seaway

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon provided icebreaking service at Midland Ontario March 24 2018 to allow a commercial ship (the bulk carrier Frontenac) to depart the port. CCGS Griffon is now working on Lake Erie escorting ships through the ice. Photo credit Steve Hayward / Canadian Coast Guard.

With the Spring navigation season fast approaching, Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking assets are being deployed in support of the annual re-opening of the St Lawrence Seaway and spring breakout operations.

CCGS Pierre Radisson departed from Quebec City March 22nd for the Great Lakes and was the first vessel of the season to transit through the channel and the series of locks that make navigation possible on the St. Lawrence Seaway from Quebec City to Lake Ontario.

This is an important element in a jointly developed plan between the United-States Coast Guard, District 9, and the Canadian Coast Guard, Central and Arctic Region, to support the annual re-opening of the Seaway and to clear the ice for ships.

After a crew change in Toronto Tuesday CCGS Pierre Radisson will transit the Welland Canal locks Wednesday, March 28, and proceed directly to Lake Superior for icebreaking and ice escorts of ships.

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon is working on Lake Erie this week.  On Monday the Griffon was busy placing two buoys in Pelee Passage, and is now escorting ships on Lake Erie.   The Griffon broke out the port of Midland Ontario for shipping this past weekend.

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Samuel Risley assisted two ships beset in ice near Marquette, Michigan yesterday and is busy assisting more ships today.

Coast Guard icebreaking services on the Great Lakes and connecting waterways is delivered in close co-operation between the Canadian and United States Coast Guards.

In January 2018, the Canadian Coast Guard and the United States Coast Guard signed a renewed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on icebreaking services. This agreement strengthens our mutual commitment for ensuring vital icebreaking operations on the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence Seaway. For the 2018 spring icebreaking program, the two Coast Guards have finalized a bi-national plan to ensure scheduled vessel traffic can move through the shipping channels and into and out of ports.

This shared responsibility has an important role in facilitating trade between Canada and the United States.

The vessels assisted by the Coast Guard carry the raw materials for the essential goods we use in our daily lives.  Icebreaking ensures the delivery of vital supplies such as road salt, heating oil and construction materials to cities across the Great Lakes on behalf of North American industries.

Coast Guard icebreakers are also at the ready for search and rescue, environmental response, maritime security and humanitarian missions including flood mitigation.  For example:  CCGS Samuel Risley joined forces with United States coast guard vessels several times this winter to break up ice jams that posed a high risk of flooding for communities on the St. Clair River, particularly at East China Township Michigan and St. Clair Township Ontario.

And, CCGS Griffon responded to the flooding emergency on the Grand River in Ontario.   By breaking up the ice at the mouth of the Grand River the water could flow more easily into Lake Erie.   This helped to prevent flooding of communities along the south end of the River.

The Canadian and U.S. coast guards are holding daily calls with the shipping industry.

A Canadian Coast Guard helicopter is used for ice flights over areas of concern.  The helicopter team is an important aid as not only do they provide the visual ice information, the information is used to aid in the efficient allocation of icebreaking resources.

Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centres in Sarnia and Prescott provide important information to ships and are the eyes and ears of the waterways.

So as you can see, it is truly a team effort to provide icebreaking services across the vast Great Lakes.

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