AERIAL PHOTOS: Icebreakers headed to Niagara

By: Nathaniel Johnson

Two Canadian Coast Guard vessels will make their way to the Welland Canal ahead of its opening Friday to break ice at Port Colborne and set buoys along the length of the waterway.

Carol Launderville, spokeswoman for the Coast Guard out of Sarnia, said the CCGS Pierre Radisson will head to Ontario on or about Tuesday from Montreal, breaking ice for the St. Lawrence Seaway along the way.

In an email, she the 98-metre-long icebreaker should arrive a day ahead of the canal’s opening. She said ice conditions would dictate when the vessel actually arrives in the area.

While the Radisson makes its way west on the lakes, the CCGS Griffon will head east on Lake Erie toward the canal. The vessel, a frequent visitor to Port Colborne, will place buoys in the canal before its opening.

“On Lake Erie, Griffon has made numerous trips this winter between Windsor/Detroit and Nanticoke.

Launderville said U.S. coast guard vessels are busy on the Great Lakes as well, working to move commercial shipping traffic year-round.

She said the two agencies work together on the lakes, assisting wherever they are needed in Canadian and American waters.

Ahead of the icebreakers arrival in the Niagara area, crews on board a Bell 429 Global Ranger were conducting ice reconnaissance missions over Lake Erie off of Port Colborne and the entrance of the Welland Canal last Thursday and on Saturday.

As the Griffon arrives in the area, Launderville said all ice surface users should plan their activities carefully, use caution on the ice and avoid the shipping lanes and icebreaking operations.

“Broken and fragmented ice tracks and ridging left behind by passing icebreakers or commercial vessels may not freeze over immediately. This can result in hazardous conditions for ice users. In addition, newly fallen snow will obscure ship tracks. Unsafe ice conditions can persist long after icebreakers have left the area,” she said in theemail.