Lakers will get some welcome help from the East Coast this year.
The Thunder Bay, a 140-foot Coast Guard cutter, set out Friday from its home port of Rockland, Maine, to join in Great Lakes ice-breaking operations. But it’s unclear whether the vessel will make it as far west as the Twin Ports.
Bill Hantzmon, a chief petty officer aboard the Duluth-based Coast Guard Cutter Alder, said it remains to be seen whether additional ice-breaking assets will be required to prepare the Twin Ports for the start of the shipping season. The Soo Locks are slated to open March 25.
The Thunder Bay will join the Mackinaw, the Biscayne Bay and the Katmai Bay, as the Coast works to bust out shipping lanes. Hantzmon said that by the time the vessels make it to Whitefish Bay, the Coast Guard should have a good read on whether the Alder needs help in Duluth.
“The warmer weather with the wind switching around from the northeast to the southwest has really helped break up the ice recently. And with the larger pieces of ice moving around now, it’s rotting faster,” said Hantzmon.
No lakers are scheduled to move in the Twin Ports until March 29, making for an unusually slow start to the shipping season.
But Hantzmon said the Coast Guard won’t let up operations. “The delay hasn’t changed our game plan any,” he said.