Icebreaking is a highly coordinated operation. Vessels from the Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard are stationed throughout the lakes and work together as a team to keep the shipping lanes open. 

Working with the Canadian Olympic Political lines are blurred as each country's ships work in any area they are needed. Each morning the captain participates in a conference call with Coast Guard officials and shipping companies to discussion operations and needs.

Icebreaking services can include commercial ship assistance, track maintenance, harbor break outs, and flood control as ice dams clog a water way during the harsh winter months. 

The winter of 2000-2001 the lower Detroit river developed heavy ice in the Livingstone Channel. As vessels became stuck it was necessary to coordinate convoys. There are many factors that decide the order in which ships will travel in a convoy:

  • Size of the vessel.
  • Amount of power.
  • Loaded condition, vessels traveling empty are more difficult to get through the ice.
  • Past experience with vessel, some ships perform poorly in ice.
  • Length of time a ship has been waiting.
  • Less powerful ships are often placed behind vessels with more power.

Click to enlarge
Brash Ice over 10-feet deep

This type of ice is created as a ship passes through an ice field and breaks the large pieces of ice into small chunks. This slushy ice can build in a channel reaching to the bottom. With each passing vessel the ice is broken into smaller pieces making it more difficult to pass as the ice is pushed in front of a vessel.

Click to enlarge
Breaking new plate ice 
that is 10-12 inches thick.

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Copyright 2001