U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Debbie Stabenow (MI) are leading the push for the Trump administration to allocate more funding to the Cost Guard for a new Great Lakes Icebreaker.
Icebreakers are key to ensuring passageways between the channels and harbors of the lakes are as smooth as possible.
“The Coast Guard is required by law to maintain a heavy icebreaking capability on the Great Lakes to keep our region’s ports and harbors open and facilitate our nation’s free flow of commerce. However, the current maintenance condition of the existing icebreaking fleet has resulted in 182 lost operating days last winter primarily due to engine failures,” wrote the Senators. “We respectfully request adequate funding for the acquisition of a Great Lakes icebreaker in your FY 2021 budget request.”
Currently, one of the heavy operating icebreakers on the Great Lakes is the WLBB-30 Mackinaw Great Lakes Icebreaker. This icebreaker began its operation in 2015 when Congress allocated funding for the Cost Guard to establish a program to support the vessel.
Now, the senators are asking for additional funding in annual budget for one more icebreaker vessel.
Icebreaking capacity in the Great Lakes supports more than 90 million tons of cargo annually. A study commissioned by the Lake Carriers’ Association found that during the 2018-2019 ice-season, businesses that depend upon the Great Lakes maritime industry lost over $1 billion in revenues because of delays caused by inadequate icebreaking.