Not only are Canadian grain movements threatened by insufficient icebreaking, so too are other industries … such as iron ore, construction materials, salt and petroleum products which are moved by ships.
Duluth, Minn. – On March 6, the U.S. Coast Guard’s cutter Alder and her crew broke their first ice in the Duluth-Superior harbor. Cutting through ice 30 inches thick in places, the Adler’s crew took 21 hours to go three miles.
Even Lake Superior veterans understand this winter is unique. “They’re saying this is the worst ice season since the mid-90s,” says Tony Maffia, the Alder’s captain. He calls it “a once in a generation-type of thing.”
On the Adler’s first day out ice covered 92 percent of the Great Lakes surface, the second-most ever measured.
Steel mills out east are hungry for Minnesota’s iron ore, now piling up and waiting for shipment. Grain and cement must also be delivered. Before the end of March, the Alder and her crew will have cut a path through more than 300 miles of ice, all the way to the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
The Canadian Shipowners Association is concerned about the ability of the Canadian Coast Guard to provide sufficient icebreaking, which has delayed the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in recent years.
Despite Canadian government efforts to encourage the movement of Canadian grain, it will remain stored in ports such as Thunder Bay until icebreakers open ports and support ship movements. Not only are Canadian grain movements threatened by insufficient icebreaking, so too are other industries with already low stocks of commodities such as iron ore, construction materials, salt and petroleum products which are moved by ships.
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