FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 18, 2009
SCHUMER BREAKS GROUND FOR NEW ICE BREAKER IN THE GREAT LAKES
Schumer Pushes Bill To Provide Great Lakes With New Icebreaker; Critical To Winter Shipping
Current Ice Breakers Nearing End Of Useful Life
Schumer: No Longer Will We Give The Vital Task Of Breaking Ice The Cold Shoulder
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced support for legislation that will authorize funding for the Coast Guard to acquire a newly constructed combination icebreaker-buoytender. Five of the current fleet of ice breakers are nearing the end of their useful lives, and have not proven to be up to the task of breaking the thickest Great Lakes ice. This legislation, sponsored by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), will provide funds to build a new ship that will mirror the proven design of the icebreaker Mackinaw, which was delivered in to the Great Lakes in 2006. Schumer noted that an additional icebreaker is critical; during the spring of 2008, U.S.-flag vessels operating on the Great Lakes suffered more than $1.3 million in damages to their hulls because the Coast Guard did not have sufficient assets to keep the shipping lanes open. This new icebreaker-buoytender will benefit all communities along Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, and the St Lawrence River.
“Keeping these critical shipping lanes free and clear of ice is vitally important, not just to the ships that travel through the Great Lakes, but to the industries that depend on the wide variety of goods that are delivered,” said Senator Schumer. “Icebreakers are to the Great Lakes what snow plows are to winter roads: vital to keeping goods and materials moving freely, even during the harshest months of winter. Building a new and more capable icebreaker is a wise investment, and will protect the jobs of the men and women who work for businesses that rely on these deliveries.”
Shipping is vital to the industries along the Great Lakes and the interconnecting channels, especially in the winter months. Ice begins to form on the lakes in early December and lasts until mid-April. During these months Great Lakes vessels carry 20 percent of the iron ore that is used in the country’s manufacturing heartland. The ice season that spanned 2006-2007 was host to 10.4 million tons of iron ore moved on the Great Lakes, which supported 100,000 jobs at steel mills and 300,000 jobs at supplier industries. During this same 2006–2007 ice season, shipments of iron ore, coal, and limestone on the Great Lakes exceeded 20,000,000 tons, and the transportation of 10,400,000 tons of iron ore helped support approximately 100,000 jobs at steel mills and approximately 300,000 jobs at supplier industries. 6,400,000 tons of coal shipped on the Great Lakes during the 2006–2007 ice season kept the Great Lakes region supplied with electricity.
Icebreaking on the Great Lakes is also important in preventing storm and flood damage. The Coast Guard works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clear the ice that forms in rivers and harbors to that causes damage to dams and ultimately floods local communities.
The new icebreaker-buoy tender will be based on the design of the New Icebreaker Mackinaw. The design will allow it to break ice in the winter and assist with placement and removal of aids to navigation (buoys), increasing use during months when there is no ice. The new MACKINAW will be able to break up to 32 inches of level ice at a speed of 3 knots ahead or 2 knots astern. It will also be capable of breaking 14 inches of ice at a speed of 10 knots ahead. The ship will break brash ice 8 feet thick at 3 knots ahead or 2 knots astern. The two engines will provide 9012 SHP and enable her to operate without rudders. The MAC also has a 500 HP bow thruster. The ship will be able to maneuver 180 degrees in a 300-foot wide channel in 32 inches of level ice or 10 feet of brash ice in less than five minutes.