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CLEVELAND — A Maine-based Coast Guard cutter arrived at its temporary homeport at the Cleveland Moorings Dec. 12 to assist in the service's ice-breaking mission in the Great Lakes throughout the winter months.
While in the region, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Thunder Bay, a 140-foot ice-breaking tug from Rockland, Maine, will assist other Coast Guard icebreakers during Operations Coal Shovel and Taconite, the largest domestic ice-breaking operations in the country.
The Coast Guard conducts domestic ice breaking to aid in search and rescue and other emergency operations, to mitigate flooding, and to meet the reasonable demands of commerce.
“Last year, the Great Lakes area experienced an abnormally warmer winter without much ice, but the Coast Guard wants to be prepared for anything." said Cmdr. Keith Ropella, chief of the 9th Coast Guard District Waterways Management Branch. "In keeping with the tradition of having a cutter and crew from another district, we are glad the Thunder Bay crew is here to help us serve Great Lakes citizens and visitors this winter."
Ice breaking on the Great Lakes is vital to keeping shipping lanes open. Large quantities of steel, coal, heating oil and grain ships throughout the region, and Coast Guard ice-breaking services enable these shippers to transport an average of $2 billion worth of cargo each year.
This is the second consecutive year the Thunder Bay was selected to support the Great Lakes region's ice-breaking operations.
Other Coast Guard cutters from the 1st Coast Guard District, the northeastern U.S., have successfully assisted with ice breaking in the Great Lakes in the past: Coast Guard Cutter Morro Bay, homeported in New London, Conn., during the 2010-2011 winter; Coast Guard Cutter Penobscot Bay, homeported in Bayonne, N.J., during the 2009-2010 winter; and Coast Guard Cutter Thunder Bay during the winter of 2008-2009.
While the crew of the Thunder Bay is deployed to the Great Lakes, other New England cutter crews will cover the Thunder Bay’s traditional area of responsibility when the need for ice breaking there arises.