Rear Admiral Joanna Nunan, Commander, United States Coast Guard Ninth District joined Julie Gascon, Assistant Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard’s Central and Arctic Region on Jan. 18, to sign an updated Memorandum of Understanding between their agencies concerning Coast Guard icebreaking services in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway maritime transportation system.
The renewed United States/Canadian Coast Guard MOU strengthens the mutual commitment for ensuring vital icebreaking operations in the Great Lakes region including the main connecting navigable waterways, Georgian Bay and the St. Lawrence River from Tibbetts Point, New York, to as far east as Cornwall, Ontario.
“With our partners at the United States Coast Guard we are truly one team supporting the safe, economical and efficient movement of ships in the heart of North America,” said Gascon. “Our updated Memorandum of Understanding allows us to better share information, equipment and personnel between countries. By working together we ensure scheduled vessel traffic can move through the shipping channels and into and out of community harbours.”
“Our partnership with the Canadian Coast Guard is crucial for our mutual success on the Great Lakes and surrounding waterways,” said Nunan. “As the beginning of this winter’s severe conditions have demonstrated, we need to work together to provide seamless service to our communities and keep commerce flowing.”
The icebreaking MOU authorizes the exchange of personnel on Coast Guard icebreakers. Temporary exchanges, when conditions allow, will enhance familiarity with each other’s procedures when cooperating in shared waters, often on joint missions.
The truly bi-national nature of icebreaking duties is evident through recent missions on the Great Lakes. CCGS Griffon crewmembers cleared shipping routes to Erie, Pennsylvania, and to Conneaut and Toledo, Ohio this month. Meanwhile, USCGC Alder crewmembers worked on icebreaking in Thunder Bay, Ontario and USCGC Morro Bay crewmembers assisted ships to Port Colborne and Nanticoke, Ontario.
As well, in a concentrated effort, CCGS Samuel Risley crewmembers joined forces with the U.S. cutters Neah Bay, Morro Bay and Bristol Bay crews to break up ice jams that posed a high risk of flooding for communities on the St. Clair River, particularly at East China Township, Michigan and St. Clair Township, Ontario.
Icebreaking is one of the multiple mission areas where the collaborative U.S./Canadian partnership has grown. Similar agreements also exist for search and rescue, environmental response, maritime security and marine communications and traffic services.