The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Terry Fox has come off a six-month refit two weeks earlier than planned, to deal with unusually heavy ice on the St. Lawrence seaway.

While most icebreakers have a life expectancy of around 30 years, the Terry Fox has been on the water for 31 years, but the captain of the ship said his vessel is nowhere near ready for retirement.

Capt. David Fowler said the ship is still in excellent condition after a $10.8-million refit.

Captain David Fowler

Capt. David Fowler says the Terry Fox may be 31 years old, but he insists it's nowhere near retirement. (CBC)

"The ship is in excellent shape. She's been maintained very well over the years, and we're good for many more years," said Fowler.

"It does take a lot of maintenance and as the ship gets older, it requires more money to keep it going."

But Fowler said there are some challenges to keeping an older vessel functioning properly.

"One of the problems we have is spare parts. As the vessel gets older, we can't buy the parts anymore."

The ship has brand new generators on board, replacing ones that were kept running with equipment found in a junk yard in Arizona.

New cranes, steelwork, new propellers, one rebuilt engine, a new galley and state-of-the-art electronic equipment in the wheelhouse were also included in the repairs.

The ship is expected to leave port from St. John's on Sunday.

The Terry Fox is one of six coast guard icebreaker vessels, all of which are past middle age with no replacements in sight.