It is the responsibility of the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) Icebreaking Program to ensure that marine shipping moves in a safe, timely and efficient manner through or around ice-covered waters. CCG also has the mandate to minimize the effect of flooding caused by ice jams on the St. Lawrence River.

Icebreaking Then and Now

1800's steam icebreaker

CCG Ice programs are in operation during the ice season 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 constant contact with icebreakers and maintain contact with shipping via CCG Marine Communication and Traffic Service Centres (MCTS).

Great Lakes Region

The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway component of Central and Arctic Region's Icebreaking program supports the activities of two medium duty icebreakers (CCGS Samuel Risley/CCGS Griffon) during the traditional ice season from mid - December to the end of April. Additionally, the Simcoe provides icebreaking support as required in the Seaway and Eastern Lake Ontario during the months of March and April.

In a severe winter, additional support of larger icebreakers may be sought from the Laurentian Region in the early spring after the opening of the Seaway Locks. Icebreaking efforts during the late fall, winter and early spring assist the export abilities of the Canadian economy. Operations in the region are closely coordinated with the United States Coast Guard to ensure the safe and efficient delivery of icebreaking services to ships and the ports of both countries throughout the Seaway from Montreal to the Lakehead.

Coast Guard has a memorandum of understanding with the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority for navigational aids and icebreaking services. The major icebreaking effort for the Seaway occurs immediately after its opening in the spring, when Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers assist the transits of both domestic and deep sea shipping in the St. Lawrence River and above the Welland Canal in Eastern Lake Erie.

Icebreaking services include:

  • assistance to ships beset in ice and escort through ice-covered waters
  • harbour breakouts where suitable commercial assistance does not exist
  • flood control for the safety and protection of the public and the environment
  • the provision of ice information and routing to assist the safe passage of ships during the harsh winter months

Arctic Region

Central and Arctic Region's icebreaking responsibility in the north covers the entire Canadian Arctic archipelago from 60 degrees north latitude, towards the North Pole and those waters of Ungava Bay, Hudson Bay and James Bay south of the parallel of 60 degrees north latitude.

Icebreaking Then and Now

Modern day icebreaking ship

The region also provides icebreaking assistance to the Sealift "dry cargo ships" which move general merchandise on behalf of the people of the Government of the Northwest Territories, to ensure that the transportation requirements of private and all federal governments agencies are met.

CCG icebreakers provide escort and routing service to the U.S. Sealift command. Icebreakers and their self-propelled barges are used as necessary to assist the tankers for the re-supply of Department of National Defence North Warning System Office manned and unmanned radar sites.