Icebreaking operations services

Icebreaking fleet of the Canadian Coast Guard

Heavy Icebreakers

Medium Icebreakers

Air Cushioned Vehicles

 

Questions and Answers on Icebreaking Operations

What icebreaking services does the Canadian Coast Guard provide?

What icebreaking services does the Canadian Coast Guard provide?

The Canadian Coast Guard provides icebreaking services for commercial ships, ferries and fishing vessels in ice-covered Canadian waters, including vessel escorts, harbour breakouts, maintaining shipping routes and providing ice information services. These services:

  • ensure safe navigation,
  • prevent the formation of ice jams and flooding, and
  • maintain open routes for maritime commerce.
How many icebreakers serve the Canadian Coast Guard?

How many icebreakers serve the Canadian Coast Guard?

The Canadian Coast Guard has a fleet of 15 icebreakers serving Eastern Canada: 2 heavy icebreakers, 4 medium icebreakers, 9 multi-purpose vessels and 2 hovercrafts.

Where and when are icebreaking services available?

Where and when are icebreaking services available?

From December to May, icebreakers and hovercrafts operate along Canada’s east coast from Newfoundland to Montreal and in the Great Lakes.

From June to November, six icebreakers operate in the Arctic to assist with shipping and delivering cargo to isolated communities. The presence of the Canadian Coast Guard’s vessels in the Arctic contributes to Canada’s assertion of Arctic sovereignty.

How does the Canadian Coast Guard decide where to position icebreakers?

How does the Canadian Coast Guard decide where to position icebreakers?

The Canadian Coast Guard holds pre-season meetings with its clients to discuss traffic expectations and service requirements.

Environment Canada’s Canadian Ice Service also forecasts seasonal ice conditions for the Canadian Coast Guard and the marine industry to anticipate any potential areas of concern and plan accordingly.

Do some ships or ports take precedence over others?

Do some ships or ports take precedence over others?

The Canadian Coast Guard’s icebreaking services ensure that marine traffic can move safely through or around ice covered waters. When a vessel requests icebreaker assistance, the Canadian Coast Guard must consider the capability of the vessel to navigate safely along its intended route. This policy pertains to commercial ships, ferries, fishing vessels and pleasure craft.

There are a limited number of Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers available, and activities are coordinated by Ice Operations Centres in Atlantic and Central & Arctic Regions to ensure the best utilization of icebreakers and minimize the impacts of ice on marine shipping.

All requests for icebreaker assistance are assessed against the following established Canadian Coast Guard priorities:

  1. all distress and emergency situations take precedence;
  2. service requests from ferry services provided in accordance with the Terms of Union will be given priority; other ferry services will receive priority as deemed appropriate by the Canadian Coast Guard;
  3. ships with vulnerable cargoes (i.e., the potential for pollution, dangerous goods, perishable) and vessels transporting cargo which is vital to the survival of communities;
  4. marine traffic and fishing vessels; and
  5. fishing harbour breakouts.
How do I request an icebreaker?

How do I request an icebreaker?

It is important to clarify whether you require an icebreaker for a routine escort or whether you are in a distress or emergency situation. Contact the nearest Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre to make your request.

How long is the wait for an icebreaker?

How long is the wait for an icebreaker?

Response time will depend upon the weather and ice conditions, the number of available icebreakers in the area, the amount of traffic needing assistance and other factors.

If an icebreaker is in the area, why will it not respond to my request for an escort?

If an icebreaker is in the area, why will i not respond to my request for an escort?

Icebreakers might be tasked to provide icebreaking services, but they may also be involved in search and rescue activities. All requests for escorts or harbour breakouts will be assessed and prioritized by the Ice Operations Centre and icebreakers will be tasked accordingly. As there are a limited number of icebreakers available, it is challenging for the Canadian Coast Guard to respond to every request, so emergency situations have precedence.

 

Ice Operations Service Standards

Read more about Ice Operations Service Standards

Canadian Coast Guard Ice Operations Centres

Canadian Coast Guard Ice Operations Centres are in operation during the ice seasons for 24 hours a day, and are staffed with professional Ships Officers who have experience in the operation of icebreakers and ships in ice. The Ice Operations Centres are in contact with icebreakers at all times and maintain contact with shipping via CCG Marine Communications and Traffic Service Centres.

CCG Ice operations centres across Canada

Service Delivery Targets

Availability

During winter, from about mid-November to the end of May, icebreaking services are provided on the Labrador Coast, East Coast, Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the Saint Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers and in the Great Lakes.

During the summer months, from about July to November, icebreakers are deployed to the Canadian Arctic.

Readiness

During the ice season, CCG icebreakers will be maintained in a state of readiness whereby they may respond to a service request within 1 hour.

Response Time

Under average ice conditions, a CCG icebreaker will be on scene to provide icebreaking services within the hours stipulated below:

CCG Icebreakers Response Table
RegionHours
Canadian Arctic 10 hours
East Coast of Newfoundland 8 hours
Gulf of Saint Lawrence 12 hours
Saint Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers 5 hours
Great Lakes 8 hours
Fishing Harbour Breakouts 24 hours

These hours are calculated from the time that the service is required until the icebreaker arrives on scene. Service will not be provided to these standards when severe environmental conditions, hydrographic or geographic features of the area would endanger CCG personnel, ships or equipment or those requesting the services.

Applicable Priorities

  1. All distress and emergency situations take precedence;
  2. Service requests from ferry services provided in accordance with the Terms of Confederation/Union will be given priority; other ferry services will receive priority as deemed appropriate by the CCG;
  3. Ships with vulnerable cargoes (pollutants, dangerous goods, perishable) and vessels transporting cargo which is vital to the survival of communities;
  4. Marine traffic and fishing vessels.

Complaints, Comments or Suggestions

CCG is committed to providing our clients with the best service possible. Comments, complaints or suggestions are encouraged. Please contact the appropriate Canadian Coast Guard Ice Operations Centres or contact the Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaking Program manager.

Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaking Program Client Satisfaction Survey

 

Ice operations centres

Email for general inquiries

St. Lawrence

December to May
(Subject to change depending on ice conditions)
7 days a week / 24 hours a day

Information on Icebreaking operations
Telephone: 514-283-1746
Toll Free: 1-855-209-1976 
Fax: 514-283-1818
E-mail: icequebec@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Information on ice conditions
Telephone: 514-283-1752
Fax: 514-283-1818  
E-mail: icemontreal@videotron.ca

Great Lakes and the Arctic

Great Lakes - December to May
Arctic - June to November
(Subject to change depending on ice conditions)
7 days a week / 24 hours a day

Information on Icebreaking operations
Telephone: 514-283-1745
Toll-free: 1-855-209-1976
Fax: 514-283-1818
E-mail: icemontreal@videotron.ca

Information on ice conditions
Telephone: 514-283-1752
fax: 514-283-1818
E-mail: icemontreal@videotron.ca

Mailing address:

Montreal Ice Centre
Canadian Coast Guard
5th floor, 105 McGill
Montreal, QC
H2Y 2E7

Atlantic Coast

December to May
(Subject to change depending on ice conditions)
7 days a week / 24 hours a day

Telephone: (709) 772-2078
Toll free: 1-800-565-1633
Fax: (709) 772-6640 (Business hours only)

Email for 24 hour ice assistance: vts.labrador@innav.gc.ca
Email for general inquiries: iceatl@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Mailing address:

P.O. Box 5667
St. John's, Newfoundland
A1C 5X1