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Service standards for ice operations

Find out about our ice centres, service delivery targets and priorities.

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Ice centres

Canadian Coast Guard ice centres run each ice season for 24 hours a day, and are staffed with officers experienced in icebreaking operations. The centres keep contact with icebreakers at all times and maintain contact with shipping via Marine Communications and Traffic Service centres.

Service delivery targets

Our targets for service delivery include availability, readiness and response times.


Icebreakers are available in specific locations at different times of year according to their block commitments. Summer icebreaking services are carried out from June to November in:

  • Nunavut
  • Northern Yukon
  • Northern Ontario
  • Northern Québec
  • North East Manitoba
  • North West Territories

Winter icebreaking services are carried out from November to May in:

  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Nova Scotia
  • New Brunswick
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Newfoundland and Labrador


During the ice season, icebreakers are maintained in a state of readiness, usually allowing them to get underway within an hour to respond to a service request. Response time

Response time

Under normal conditions, icebreaker target response times to provide icebreaking services are:

Icebreaking services target response times
Region Hours
Canadian Arctic 10 hours
Northeast and 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 may not be provided within these times if severe environmental conditions, hydrographic or geographic features of the area would endanger:

  • service requesters
  • Canadian Coast Guard:
    • ships
    • personnel
    • equipment

Response times may be affected by:

  • ice and weather conditions
  • whether or not the vessel is beset
  • capability of the assigned icebreaker
  • availability of an icebreaking resource
  • proximity of an icebreaker to the vessel
  • the location of the vessel requiring assistance
  • whether the vessel has complied with recommended ice routing advice

These limitations may affect delivery of icebreaking services:

  • weather restrictions
  • severity of ice season
  • availability of resources
  • hydrographic and geographic restrictions


We prioritize icebreaking service requests according to these 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
  3. Other ferry services will receive priority as deemed appropriate by the Canadian Coast Guard
  4. Ships with vulnerable cargoes (pollutants, dangerous goods and perishables) and vessels transporting cargo which is vital to the survival of communities
  5. Marine traffic, fishing vessels and commercial ports

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