Coast guard sends extra icebreaker to help Great Lakes shipping

The federal government is re-routing resources to accommodate rare ice conditions on the Great Lakes.

The cold winter has created more ice on Great Lakes and that's delaying shipping season

Coast Guard is re-routing its resources to help with opening the St. Lawrence Seaway. (CBC News)

The federal government is re-routing resources to accommodate rare ice conditions on the Great Lakes.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans said icy conditions are having a negative effect on the economy since ships can't pass through.

As a result, the government is re-assigning an additional Coast Guard ice breaker to the waterways.  Usually there are two.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Gail Shea, wrote in a statement that the extra ice breaker will "ensure that Canadian products, resources and agricultural goods get shipped to market. It is our firm belief that our economy, jobs and competitiveness depend on our ability to get our product into the marketplace."

Geoff Coulson, a warning preparedness meteorologist at Environment Canada, said it is one of the worst winters on record, since Environment Canada began recording statistics in 1972.

Coulson pointed out that currently 88 per cent of Lake Erie is covered in ice. Normally, he said, there's approximately 30 to 35 per cent ice coverage at this time of year.

Andrew Bogora, the communications officer for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, said the seaway supports more than $35 billion each year in shipping.

"The carriers have adjusted their own itineraries to reflect the (delay) in the seaways opening," said Borgora. "The carriers are facing some pressure from their clients. (The help from the Coast Guard) will assure steel mills, farmers can see those critical cargo move once again."  

Windsor West MP Brian Masse has taken a few tours on icebreakers.

"It's not a mystery we've had one of the longest and harshest winters in history, but there was very little action in preparation for this," he said.

Coulson said temperatures will remain cooler than normal until the end of May.

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