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Icebreaking Operations Directive 
1. Provision of Icebreaking Services and Harbours Breakouts

Table of contents

1 Introduction

This directive specifies the conditions under which the Canadian Coast Guard provides icebreaking services in Canadian waters. It should be used in conjunction with other icebreaking policies including Icebreaking Levels of Service and Ice Navigation in Canadian Waters.

2 Background

The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard is mandated to provide icebreaking and ice management services in order to ensure safe, economical and efficient movement of ships through ice-covered waters. Additionally, icebreaking services decrease the risk of flooding as a result of ice build-up.

The legal basis or authority for the provision of icebreaking services is the Oceans Act, 1996, Part III, Section 41.

3 Principles

3.1 Purpose

Icebreaking services are provided for the safety of navigation, to improve marine traffic in ice-covered Canadian waters, and in southern Canada, to protect life and property in flood plain areas.

3.2 Provision

Canadian Coast Guard provides icebreaking services in accordance with the advertised Levels of Service. These services include ice navigation assistance, ice routing and information services, commercial and fishing harbour breakouts, flood control and Arctic resupply and Canadian presence in the Arctic. Certain exclusions apply (see section 3.3 Exclusions).

Duration of the provision of service depends on weather conditions as well as availability of Canadian Coast Guard resources. For a detailed list of global commitments in southern Canada and in the Canadian Arctic, please refer to the Icebreaker Requirements 2017-2022.

3.2.1 Ice Navigation Assistance

Canadian Coast Guard provides ice navigation assistance services including escorting ships separately or in convoy, freeing beset vessels, maintaining clear passages in shore ice and standing by for escort requests.

3.2.2 Ice Routing and Information Services

Canadian Coast Guard manages ice operations centres which provide ice information and ice routing advice in collaboration with Canadian Ice Service of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

3.2.3 Harbour Breakouts

Canadian Coast Guard will break out ice from wharf faces and harbour approaches in order to increase accessibility to shipping if sufficient Canadian Coast Guard resources are available.

3.2.4 Flood Control

Canadian Coast Guard will provide flood control services to help prevent formation of ice in areas of southern Canada considered prone to or threatened by flooding. These services include monitoring ice and water levels and providing icebreaking services to facilitate water flow during spring breakup.

3.2.5 Arctic Resupply and Canadian Presence in the Arctic

Canadian Coast Guard provides services to transport dry cargo and fuel during the annual resupply of sites when commercial carriers are not available. In addition, Canadian Coast Guard ensures a Canadian presence in the Arctic in support of the Government of Canada's positions.

3.3 Exclusions

Canadian Coast Guard will not provide icebreaking services:

  1. in harbours or havens served by commercial icebreaking services
  2. in waters where geographic, meteorological or operational conditions would unduly endanger Canadian Coast Guard’s crew, vessels, equipment, or the persons requesting the services
  3. if the breakout of the harbour is likely to expose fishing vessels to unsafe ice conditions outside the harbour
  4. if there is a risk of damage to fishing vessels or harbour facilities

4 Application

4.1 Service Requests

All requests for icebreaking services, offered in areas or within response times outside the parameters defined in this document, will be reviewed with regard to such factors as the number of available Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers, the priority of other commitments, the expected volume of marine traffic entering and leaving the area, potential clientele, ice conditions, and funding availability.

4.2 Service Under Special Agreement

Where it is appropriate and feasible to do so, icebreaking services may be provided under special agreement with other government departments or agencies.

4.3 Icebreaking Services Fee (Harbour Breakouts Excluded)

A fee schedule entitled: Icebreaking Services Fee provided by the Canadian Coast Guard has been in force since December 21, 1998. It is based on the principle that those who benefit directly from taxpayer-funded services should pay a fair share of the associated cost.

5 Responsibilities

The Icebreaking Superintendent under the direction of the Regional Director, Canadian Coast Guard Programs, with the advice and assistance of functional staff at National Headquarters, shall be responsible for the application of the provisions of this directive.

6 Definitions

Geographic area defined for the purposes of this document as shown in annex A(Arctique)
Vessel unable to move in any direction because of ice surrounding the vessel. (Coincé dans les glaces)
An escort of more than one vessel in a line. (Convoi)
Direct assistance of an icebreaker to a vessel or vessels. The icebreaker will break a track that the escorted vessel(s) will follow. (Escorte)
A ship specially designed and constructed for the purpose of assisting the passage of other ships through ice. (Brise-glace)
Icebreaking services:
Includes route assistance, ice routing and information services, and marine facility and port maintenance. (Services de déglaçage)
Ice Information:
The provision of general ice information to vessels and other interested parties. (Information sur les glaces)
Ice Routing:
The provision of a specific route for vessels to follow through the easiest ice, reducing the need for escorts. (Navigation dans les glaces)
Ice season:
Each period of time starting with and including early November for the Labrador coast up to and including June of the following year in southern Canada and beginning at the end of June up to and including some of November in the prescribed zones of northern Canada. (Saison des glaces)
Southern Canada:
The waters of the territorial sea of Canada and the exclusive economic zone of Canada south of the Arctic as shown in annex A(Sud du Canada)

7 References

8 Inquiries

Inquiries related to this directive should be sent to the Manager, Safe Shipping Policies at the National Headquarters by email at

Approved by:

Julie Gascon
Director General, Operations

Annex A Icebreaking Geographical Areas

Map of Canada
Map of Canada - Text version

A colour map of Canada with a legend at top left showing two elements: Arctic waters in pale green and Southern Canada waters; including Atlantic Ocean, Gulf, Estuary and Great Lakes; in yellow. A compass is situated at the top right. A scale in Nautical miles is at the bottom right. The NavData team logo is presented at the bottom left.

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