USCGC Neah Bay assisted the M/V James R. Barker, carrying 54k tons of taconite, stuck in Detroit's East Outer Channel, December 28, 2022. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

Photos: U.S. Coast Guard Kicks Off Great Lakes Icebreaking Operation

Mike Schuler
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December 29, 2022

The U.S. Coast Guard has kicked off Operation Coal Shovel this week on the Great Lakes.

Operation Coal Shovel is the domestic ice-breaking operation with an area of responsibility spanning from southern Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair, to the St. Clair / Detroit River system, and into Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, including the St. Lawrence Seaway.

U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers work together as winter conditions worsen to ensure the ability to conduct search-and- rescue, community service, and the facilitation of navigation to meet the reasonable demands of commerce.

U.S. Coast Guard Photo

Both the U.S. and Canadian fleets also assist with flood mitigation efforts when requested to do so from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, other emergency operations include opening channels to icebound communities or breaking ice for the ferries that serve them to ensure critical supplies of food, heating oil or access to medical assistance is maintained.

Sector Detroit provides command and control for the annual operation and may place restrictions or close waterways as ice conditions dictate. Due consideration is given to the need for cross channel traffic (e.g. ferries), the availability of icebreakers, and the safety of the island residents who use naturally formed ice bridges for transportation to and from the mainland.

USCGC Cutter Neah Bay with Canadian Coast Guard Cutter Samuel Risley conduct a dual escort on the Frontenac, Livingstone Channel after it was beset yesterday morning.

As the 2022-2023 Operation Coal Shovel season begins, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Detroit and the Canadian Coast Guard will continue to monitor potentially hazardous ice conditions and conduct ice breaking operations throughout the Great Lakes. Furthermore, phone conferences are conducted regularly with maritime shipping company representatives to coordinate ice breaking services and facilitate the movement of commercial vessels.

U.S. Coast Guard Photo

The U.S. Coast Guard recommends all recreational ice users plan their activities carefully, use caution on the ice, and stay away from shipping channels. Waterway users and island residents should stay tuned to local media resources for the status of channel closures.

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