Mild Winter Could Halt Great Lakes Icebreaking Resources

U.S.-flag vessel operators on the Great Lakes are concerned that the mild winter of 2015/2016 will derail efforts to build a second heavy icebreaker. Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) is warning in its 2016 State of the Lakes report it is concerned that the mild ice season is going to lull Great Lakes shipping and those who regulate it into a false sense of security regarding icebreaking resources. “We’ll do ourselves a great disservice if we breathe a sigh of relief, declare the winters of 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 a 100-year occurrence, and say the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards have enough icebreaking resources. They don’t.” The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015 authorizes another heavy icebreaker for the Lakes, but funds for the $200 million vessel have yet to be appropriated. The association is confident funding will come. In addition to a second heavy icebreaker, the association is calling for the U.S. Coast Guard to accelerate modernization of its aging 140-foot-long icebreaking tugs by moving the work from its yard in Baltimore to Great Lakes shipyards. The major shipyards on the lakes are located in Sturgeon Bay, Superior and Marinette, Wisconsin; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Toledo, Ohio. Smaller “top-side” repair operations are located in Cleveland, Ohio; Escanaba, Michigan; Buffalo, New York.

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