Here are the ships that will break ice on the Great Lakes this winter

A pair of Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers will be active on the Great Lakes this winter.

The two ships directly assisted 637 ships in the Great Lakes last season

The CCGS Samuel Risley breaks up an ice jam that was a flood risk for communities on the St. Clair River. (Canadian Coast Guard)

The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) has assigned the CCGS Griffon and CCGS Samuel Risley to the Great Lakes this winter season. 

Those ships will work in partnership with United States Coast Guard to keep the Great Lakes waterway open for commercial shipping between the two countries. 

Both icebreakers completed refit and maintenance work, which included an overhaul of the four main propulsion engines and a pair of ship service electrical generators on the CCGS Griffon. 

The CCGS Samuel Risley had a main engine overhauled and an air compressor replaced. 

Economic driver

Commercial shipping along the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River supports $60 billion in economic activity and 329,000 jobs in Canada and the United States, according to the Chamber of Marine Commerce.

"With St. Lawrence Seaway cargo volumes up 9 per cent last year, and 4 per cent so far this year, shipping is facilitating economic growth for the region," said Bruce Burrows, president of the chamber.

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon breaks ice in Midland, Ont on March 24, 2018. (Canadian Coast Guard)

"These deliveries allow mining and energy companies to run their operations in the most cost effective and efficient way, thus safeguarding jobs in their communities."

By the numbers:

The 2017-2018 season was a busy one for the Canadian Coast Guard:

  • The CCGS Griffon and CCGS Samuel Risley traveled 27,302 kilometres while escorting vessels and breaking ice
  • The CCG responded to 1,252 requests to break ice in central and Eastern Canada
  • Both ships directly assisted 637 ship transit on the great lakes

Ground support

The icebreakers are supported by Ice Service Specialists, who inform shippers from both countries what kind of conditions are expected. 

A team of officers in Sarnia and Prescott working with Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) also provide information to mariners and are able to respond to calls for assistance.

Breaking ice can also help prevent flooding in communities along the waterways.

"That obstruction, known as an ice jam or ice plug, can cause flooding as water builds up and overflows the banks," according to a news release from the CCGS.

"Coast Guard ships are also at the ready to respond to environmental incidents or other urgent or humanitarian emergencies."