CHICAGO The U.S. Coast
Guard ice-breaking vessel Thunder Bay arrived Friday
in Cleveland ahead of the winter season on the Great Lakes to
assist other Coast Guard ice-breakers during Operations Coal
Shovel and Taconite, the largest ice-breaking operations in the
country, according to the Coast Guard.
"Last year, the Great Lakes area
experienced an abnormally warmer winter without much ice, but
the Coast Guard wants to be prepared for anything," Cmdr. Keith
Ropella, chief of the 9th Coast Guard Districts Waterways
Management Branch, said in a statement.
An average of $2 billion in
cargoincluding steel, coal, heating oil and
grainare transported on the Great Lakes each year.
"The Coast Guard has eight
ice-breakers in the Lakes," Glen G. Nekvasil, vice president of
the Rocky River, Ohio-based Lake Carriers Association,
told AMM Tuesday. "But five of the ships were built in
the 1970s and are nearing the end of their productive lives. A
couple winters ago, we had to cancel some cargoes because there
wasnt enough ice-breaking assistance. So the Coast Guard
brings in an additional asset for winter" at the
The group would like nine
ice-breakers assigned to the 9th District on a permanent
The locks at Sault Ste. Marie,
Mich., will close Jan. 15, but iron ore will still ship from
Escanaba, Mich., until the end of January and, depending on
demand, coal could move on Lake Erie well into January.
The association held its first
ice conference call with the Coast Guard Wednesday. That will
be followed by periodic calls between the Coast Guard and
vessel operators "about where the assets are and where they are
most needed," Nekvasil said.