Maritime shipping interests have asked the Canadian government to consider constructing at least five new icebreakers for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway as part of a recently announced $15.7 billion Canadian Coast Guard fleet renewal program.
The Chamber of Marine Commerce in Canada praised the Coast Guard’s recent retrofits to three existing icebreakers in the fleet but warned that it will “not be adding any extra capacity but take the place of other vessels that will be out of service for major repairs.”
Chamber President Bruce Burrows said in a statement, “It’s important that these ships be part of the resource pool for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence shipping, which was plagued with ice problems in the Great Lakes this past spring and during the winter on the St. Lawrence River. However, we also need an urgent commitment that new ice-breaking vessels will be built within the next five to 10 years for our region as part of the recently announced program for Coast Guard fleet renewal.”
The chamber noted that two U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers were out of service in March, while a Canadian icebreaker assigned to Lake Superior operated at 60 percent of capability due to mechanical problems in April.
“We need to preserve the international reputation of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence navigation system as being a reliable trade gateway that’s open for business,” Burrows said.
The chamber estimated that the cost to the Canadian economy of a Canadian-flag ship with delayed cargo delivery in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway is more than $500,000 a day.