Ice Delays Great Lakes Shipping

Great Lakes Ice Map from NOAA
NOAA Map of Current Ice Conditions on Great Lakes
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Continuing ice cover has produced a slow start to shipping season on the Great Lakes.  The Port of Cleveland's scheduled celebration Tuesday of the arrival of the year's first ocean-going vessel had to be delayed.  ideastream's David Molpus has more.

The Saint Lawrence seaway didn't open its lanes to ocean-going vessels till last Thursday - a week later than planned.    Meanwhile, freighters that shuttle within the Great Lakes got started a week earlier but traffic is down by a third.  Nearly 50% of Lake Erie was still topped with ice as of late Tuesday, according to the Great Lakes Research Laboratory.

Glen Nekvasil: "The ice is very very thick up on Lake Superior and also down here on Lake Erie we've had some very formidable ice conditions."  

Nekvasil is Vice President of the Lake Carriers' Association, an Ohio-based group that represents US-flag ships.  He says 25 US ships are sailing now on the Lakes compared to about 40, normally this time of year.  The Coast Guard had asked shippers to delay.  Ice-breakers are clearing lanes but Nekvasil says that's slow going too.

Nekvasil:   "The most powerful icebreaker on the US side, the Mackinaw, she is running on reduced power right now because she has a problem.  A couple of the other boats have had issues that have taken them out of service for varying periods of time.

Shippers say this points to the need for the Coast Guard to have funds to modernize its fleet.  Among those industries most immediately affected are steel and power companies.  Conditions this year are still not as bad as last year when the ice was about a foot thicker. 


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