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Ice Breakers Still Working to Clear Great Lakes

Written by Ryan Packard

Ice conditions for the Great Lakes are still pretty severe, particularly for Lake Superior with 83.2 percent of the surface still frozen according to analysis reports from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. Total ice coverage on the Lakes as of April 9 is 58.6 percent. With shipping season officially underway in the St. Mary’s River, it will be about two weeks until iron ore freighters can cross Lake Superior-Huron without the assistance of icebreakers, according to Mark Gill, director of vessel traffic service for the U.S. Coast Guard in Sault Ste. Marie.

An ice breaker is due to begin ice breaking operations April 13 – April 20 in Georgian Bay, working its way through Owen Sound, Midland and Whitefish River.

This excessive ice coverage prevents ships from delivering iron ore from the Minnesota Iron Range to Northwest Indiana mills like Gary Works, which has caused the Indiana mill to slow production.

Coast Guard ships USCGC Mackinaw and CCGS Pierre Radisson, powerful icebreakers, are leading a convoy of five empty freighters across Lake Superior to Duluth and Two Harbors, Minn.  Glen G. Nekvasil, Vice President of Lake Carriers Association, told SMU that after loading the ships will be escorted back through the icy waters of Superior to their next destination.  At this time there are no iron ore loads headed towards the mills.

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