“Lack of Coast Guard Icebreakers Disrupts Shipping on Great Lakes, Says Task Force” –gCaptain

Launch of USCGC Mackinaw (WLBB-30) on April 2, 2005. Photo by Peter J. Markham.

gCaptain brings us a report on Coast Guard icebreaking on the Great Lakes, based on information provided by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, a Great Lakes shipping special interest group.

Should this be a Coast Guard function? There are really two elements here, one commercial and one safety.

The commercial aspect is facilitating commerce. Some might say that shippers and ports should pay for their icebreaking. On the other hand, the Federal Government facilitates commerce in a number of ways including, building roads, air traffic control, dredging ports and waterways, and maintaining navigation systems.

The safety aspect is preventing flooding. This is disaster response before the disaster and certainly something DHS should be interested in.

Great Lakes shipping interest are fixated on the idea of a second Great Lakes Icebreaker in the mold of USCGC Mackinaw.

If we accept that Great Lakes icebreaking is a Coast Guard function, but we don’t want to build a dedicated Great Lakes Icebreaker in spite of an apparent desire on the part of members of Congress to appropriate for that purpose, we have to either convince Congress that devoting additional assets would not be cost effective, that additional money is better spent elsewhere, or offer an alternate plan for Great Lakes icebreaking.

Alternatives might be to make the proposed medium icebreakers capable of operating in and out of the Great Lakes so that they could be used there when conditions warranted or perhaps a new fleet of small but more powerful icebreaking tugs to replace the 65 foot WYTLs would fill the bill.

Each of the alternatives offers a different mix of advantages and costs. This is another area where perhaps the Coast Guard needs to invest a bit more in analysis.

Thanks to Bruce for bringing this to my attention.

2 thoughts on ““Lack of Coast Guard Icebreakers Disrupts Shipping on Great Lakes, Says Task Force” –gCaptain

  1. It is interesting the article and organization call for an extra icebreaker when they cite in excellent detail the facts that 4-5 out of the 8 CG ice-breaking vessels were laid up for scheduled overhaul or mechanical casualties.

    The answer is not one additional large icebreaker, rather recapitalization of the numerous Icebreaking Tugs, specifically the 140’ers. The WYTLs and WTGBs are some of the oldest vessels in the fleet now. Chuck recently wrote about the WYTLs, and I seem to remember a longer past discussion about the WTGBs.

    The bottom line is ONE additional large great-lakes (Mackinaw) breaker is simply not efficient or workable. Recapitalization of all the older breakers is what is needed and would be sufficient as it has always been in the past.

    A better (and bigger picture) argument is that the CG should routinely have a recapitalization budget, and not constantly “make do” with ancient vessels which are susceptible to casualty no matter how well maintained.

  2. Pingback: “AWARDS 2021 | BEST ICE-CLASS TUG – SELENE – ROBERT ALLAN LTD & SANMAR SHIPYARDS” –Baird Maritime | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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