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.