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Icebreaking in Canada

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaking program makes sure that marine traffic moves safely through or around ice-covered waters.

From December to May, icebreakers and hovercrafts operate along Canada’s east coast from Newfoundland to Montréal and in the Great Lakes. From June to November, icebreakers provide services in the Arctic.

Canadian Coast Guard ice operations centres task our fleet of icebreakers and guide the movement of marine traffic through ice. With the support of the program, most Canadian ports are open for business year-round.


Our staff and fleet operate out of multiple regions to deliver vital services in different sectors.

Route assistance

The program provides route assistance services, such as:

Ice routing and information services

We provide general routes to shipping and specific routes can be requested.

Harbour breakouts

Our harbour breakout services include:

CCGS Pierre Radisson conducting first harbour breakout in Port Alfred, upper Saguenay River

Flood control

The program provides flood control services by:

Northern resupply

We resupply northern settlements and government sites with fuel and dry cargo when commercial carriers aren’t available.

Arctic sovereignty

Our icebreakers help to maintain sovereignty in the Canadian Arctic by supporting the Canadian Coast Guard’s programs, such as:

We also support our mandate by providing the following services:


We hold pre-season meetings with clients to discuss their needs and our traffic expectations. These clients include:

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Canadian Ice Service forecasts seasonal ice conditions for us and the marine industry. We use this to anticipate any potential areas of concern and plan accordingly.

Our icebreaking program provides high-quality services by following these procedures:

  1. developing and improving public standards for services by consulting with clients
  2. continually improving the delivery of services to meet standards
  3. accounting for performance against our standards
  4. monitoring client satisfaction with services
  5. providing accessible complaint and correction options when service standards aren’t being met

Requesting an icebreaker

Contact your nearest MCTS station to make your official request. You must tell us if you need a routine escort or if you’re in a distress or emergency situation.

Response time will depend on:

When you request icebreaking services, we must determine if your vessel can navigate safely along its intended route. This policy pertains to:

All requests for icebreaker assistance are assessed against established priorities and service standards.


CCGS Henry Larsen breaking a floe
CCGS Henry Larsen navigating between floes
CCGS Henry Larsen escorting former M/V Apollo ferry in Strait of Belle-Isle
CCGS Amundsen awaiting helicopter in Arctic
CCGS Amundsen and helicopter posing in Arctic
CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier in Arctic ice
CCGS Captain Molly Kool breaking a big floe in St. Lawrence Gulf
CCGS Des Groseilliers’ barge resupplying Eureka base station with fuel and cargo
CCGS Mamilossa spring breakout in Lake St. Pierre area

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