A lack of ice on Lake Erie is making life easier for shipping companies this winter.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. tweeted Thursday that the lake had been declared 99 per cent ice free earlier this week.

Peter Berry, the harbourmaster for the Windsor Port Authority, in Windsor, Ont., said as a result of these conditions, there has been no need to call in the Canadian Coast Guard to help with ice jams this season.

Last February, nearly 81 per cent of all the Great Lakes' surface area was covered with ice.

"We don't have to work with the Coast Guard at this point for issuing ice notices or having icebreakers go out to work with the ships," he explained in a telephone interview on Thursday night.

"At 99 per cent, the ice that they are speaking of, that one per cent is mostly shoreline ice, which wouldn't affect commercial shipping," said Berry, adding that means big savings for those companies.

The Detroit River is a major shipping channel. It helps link Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan to Lake Erie and eventually Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Berry said the low ice levels have also meant that Coast Guard equipment has suffered less wear and tear this winter.

"The impact economically ... is the fact that those repairs do not need to occur and neither do those expenses," he said.

When there is more ice on the lake, it takes time for icebreakers to do their work. But with no ice this winter, there are no such delays to contend with.

"You look at the movement of things such as salt, which is something that moves right through till February most times," said Berry. "Instead of the ships having to wait to leave the salt dock for six to 10 days, they're able to leave as soon as they're full and get through most areas of the lake."