At today’s pre-season ice meeting, organized by the Shipping Federation of Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) presented its plans for the upcoming winter season to the marine industry. More specifically, the CCG announced the number of icebreakers available, their deployment plan and weather forecasts for precipitation and ice cover.
The meeting gives SODES the opportunity to reiterate that CCG icebreaking fleet renewal is critical for the following reasons:
· The average vessel age (33 years) results in frequent, unforeseen breakdowns for which it is difficult to get replacement parts.
· Work done in the context of renewing the marine industry-CCG icebreaking agreement showed a deficit in terms of icebreaker availability over the next 10 years.
· High water levels in the St. Lawrence – Great Lakes system could increase the need for icebreaking operations, especially in the Seaway, to prevent ice jams and flooding.
Due to inadequate icebreaking in 2013 and 2014, ice conditions forced many ships to delay or postpone their transits, generating financial losses estimated at more than $100 000/ship per 24-hour delay. In addition to significant economic repercussions, this situation also harms the industry’s reputation in the ultra-competitive free trade context.
For all of these reasons, SODES once again recommends that the CCG:
· Renew its icebreaking fleet with type 1200 class or higher vessels (medium icebreakers)
· Have a short, medium and long-term plan B to offset the shortage of icebreakers, for example, by planning to charter or purchase existing foreign icebreakers.
For many years now, SODES, along with its members and marine industry partners, has pointed out that, as a nation bordered by three oceans and with the world’s longest coastline, Canada needs a reliable icebreaking fleet. Its ability to sustain trade, particularly in the St. Lawrence – Great Lakes Corridor, depend on it.