After Record Winter, US Coast Guard Concludes Nation's Largest Ice-Breaking Operation

Updated: 05/15/2014 10:59 PM
Created: 05/15/2014 10:55 PM

On Thursday, the US Coast Guard says it concluded its ice-cutting mission in the Sault St. Marie sector, which includes Lake Superior.

The brutal winter left the shipping routes choked with ice across the Great Lakes.

Nine US and three Canadian cutters had been leading the way for ships from December 6 until Thursday, May 15. The mission, called Operation Taconite, lasted 160 days. 

During that operation the Coast Guard says an estimated 33 million tons of dry bulk and liquid cargoes were shipped.

In a statement, they said that although "official statistics have not been released, it is reported the 2013-14 season produced the thickest and most expansive ice cover the Great Lakes has experienced in 35 years."

They released the following examples:

  • In February 2014, the Motor Tanker Algocanada's up bound transit of the St Marys River, escorted by USCGC Katmai Bay, took eight days to complete. Under normal ice conditions, an up bound movement is executed in 12 hours. 
  • In March 2014, the first west bound crossing of the Straits of Mackinac took four days. The crossing featured the Joyce L. Van Ekenvort with the barge Great Lakes Trader. The tug is the most powerful tug in the Great Lakes.  It was escorted by USCGC Mackinaw, the U.S. Coast Guard's most powerful ice breaker in the Great Lakes. Under normal conditions the voyage would be completed in 12 hours. 
  • The first east bound crossing of Lake Superior (Duluth to the Soo Locks), facilitated by USCGC Mackinaw took nine days (March 26 to April 4) to complete. Under normal ice conditions, the typical crossing would take 24 hours to complete. 
  • The first load of iron ore (Two Harbors, to Gary Harbor, Ind.) took 13 days to deliver. This is normally a three day voyage.

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