The United States and Canadian Coast Guards began working together late last week to clear ice jams from the busy Great Lakes shipping channels.
The U.S. Coast Guard is calling the ice-breaking mission Operation Coal Shovel, and it's currently underway in Lake Huron, Lake Erie, the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and Lake Ontario. The icebreakers work to flush ice downstream to make way for crucial maritime commerce vessels.
Lieutenant Commander Jillian Lamb of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Detroit told the Detroit Free Press, "The ice-breaking operations enable the transport of $2 billion of cargo."
Last winter, ice breaking operations began in December and lasted for 128 days. That season saw some of the worst ice conditions ever, which significantly slowed commercial shipping operations and affected local industries. According to UpNorthLive, a local ABC affiliate, 92.5 percent of the Great Lakes was covered by ice at one point in March 2014, which is the highest percentage of ice coverage seen on the Lakes since 1979.
As a consequence of 2014's harsh weather and resulting delayed shipments, the Lake Carriers' Association has asked for a reassessment of the Coast Guards' ice-breaking operations and strategies, although the Association also stressed its appreciation for the countries' joint efforts in keeping the waters clear.
The Association has estimated that last year's troubled season cost them about $705 million and 3,800 jobs through shipping delays, and is hoping this year will prove less problematic.
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