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Freezing temperatures keep Coast Guard ice breakers busy in Maine

by U.S. Coast Guard 1st District Northeast 9 Jan 07:18 UTC
A Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team South Portland 49-foot Buoy Utility Stern Loading (BUSL) boat is photographed in ice Monday, Jan. 1, 2018 in Fore River, Maine. A BUSL is used to service buoys and can also be used for ice breaking operations. © U.S. Coast Guard

This winter's record cold temperatures are keeping Coast Guard crews busy as they work daily to keep waterways open throughout Maine and New Hampshire.

As part of Operation Reliable Energy for Northeast Winters (RENEW), Coast Guard ice breaking tugs have been breaking ice on the Penobscot River since mid-December. Crews are now starting to see ice form in other harbours and rivers across the region.

Operation RENEW is the Coast Guard's region-wide effort to ensure Northeast communities have the security, supplies, energy, and emergency resources they need throughout the winter.

"It is definitely an earlier start to the season than we've seen the last two years," said Captain Michael Baroody, commander of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England. "After a couple of relatively mild winters, we expect that our cutters will be extremely busy for the foreseeable future."

Based on the number of ice breakers in New England, the Coast Guard has to prioritize any requests for ice breaking assistance. The top priorities are keeping Coast Guard search and rescue stations capable of responding to emergencies, aiding vessels beset in ice, and helping island communities receive fuel, food, and medical supplies by water. The Coast Guard will also break ice to facilitate the safe navigation of cargo ships and tankships, passenger ferries, and commercial fishing vessels.

Three 65-foot Small Harbor Tugs, capable of breaking up to 12 inches of ice, are homeported in Maine. These include Coast Guard Cutters Bridle out of Southwest Harbor, Tackle out of Rockland, and Shackle out of South Portland.

"It is always a challenge for the Coast Guard to meet ice breaking demands during severe winters", said Captain Baroody. "It's critical for mariners to closely track weather and local ice conditions, to preemptively move their vessels that may be at risk of getting iced-in if it's safe to do so, and to give us as much notice as possible if they need to be broken out."

All requests for Coast Guard ice breaking in Maine and New Hampshire should be directed to the Sector Northern New England Command Center at (207) 767-0303.

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