Spring ice-break on hold
Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers positioned to help fishing vessels, ferries, and offshore oil and gas
It’s the season of the harbour breakout for the Canadian Coast Guard on the northeast coast of the province.
With the startup of the seal hunt and snow crab fisheries, fishermen on boats in ice-bound harbours are eager to get going and need a path broken through the ice to get access to the fishing or sealing grounds.
But with a huge band of heavy pack ice lying off the northeast coast, the harbour breakouts may have to wait until favourable winds move that heavy ice off.
There is not much point in getting fishing boats out of the harbour only to risk them getting jammed in heavy pack ice and the further need for icebreakers.
“We are keeping an eye out for opportunity now to do harbour breakouts as ice conditions ease up on the northeast coast,” said Trevor Hodgson, icebreaking superintendent for the Atlantic region.
“What we are looking at, for this to happen, are some southerly, southeast or southwest winds to blow the ice off the land and basically open up routes from the harbours to the fishing grounds. So as time progresses you will see our vessels involved a lot more in these breakouts, as well as escorts of fishing vessels to support that industry as need be.”
The Canadian Coast Guard held a technical briefing in St. John’s Wednesday to inform members of the media about its spring icebreaking operations in the Atlantic region.
While ice conditions were heavy last year in areas of the province, this year the ice conditions are below average. There are few icebergs drifting into the region.
“Compared to what we look at as normally a 30-year average, we are looking at being well below the average amount of ice for this time of year,” Hodgson said. “There’s less ice than normal on the Labrador coast, which led to less ice on the northeast coast of Newfoundland.
“The northeast coast still has a large band of pack ice blocking the harbours for the start of the snow crab season, and we are focusing our attention on that. There has been ice pushed into the coast similarly to last year but, unlike last year, the ice conditions there are not as heavy and severe. The ice is thinner and more manageable for our icebreakers. There is no indication at this time that we will see those heavy Arctic and Labrador ice conditions reach the coasts.”
Wade Spurrell, assistant commissioner for the Atlantic region, noted that from December to May icebreaking is “arguably the busiest program for the Canadian Coast Guard in the Atlantic region.”
“This area of operations is vast and the ice conditions that we experience are very diverse, from the first ice that forms in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the heavy ice along the Labrador coast to the strong multi-year ice and icebergs that descend onto our waters from the Canadian Arctic,” Spurrell said.
“Our clients are also very diverse. They can run from small fishing vessels to merchant ships of over 1,000 feet and, of course, the offshore oil industry.”
The Canadian Coast Guard’s Wade Spurrell (left), assistant commissioner for the Atlantic region, and Trevor Hodgson, icebreaking superintendent for the Atlantic region, detail ice conditions around Newfoundland and Labrador this spring and current...