6. Planned Icebreaker Deployment
The Coast Guard has carefully assessed the regional client requirements, taking into consideration changes in the volume and capability of marine traffic in various geographic areas and the local sea ice conditions. Large vessels proceeding toward the St. Lawrence River have become more capable and less dependent on icebreaker support, while smaller vessels proceeding through alternate shipping lanes and the East Coast ferries are more likely to require icebreaker support.
The Coast Guard is challenged to respond to all the needs of the marine shipping industry as there are a limited number of icebreakers. When the original document was developed in 1997, there were 22 ice-capable vessels in the Coast Guard fleet. There are now only 17 ice-capable vessels, many of which are over 30 years old (please see Annex B for more details). These ships are also tasked to other Coast Guard and Fisheries and Oceans programs, such as Search and Rescue, Aids to Navigation, Fisheries Enforcement and Science, thus resulting in conflicting requirements for them during peak periods, such as the opening of the Seaway and spring fisheries.
Coast Guard plans its operations based on forecasted ice conditions. Throughout the ice season, vessel deployments are continually evaluated and altered based on prevailing ice conditions, traffic conditions, discussions with industry and Coast Guard levels of service. Coast Guard recognizes that during a heavy ice year, demand will increase and will add pressure on available assets while a light ice year would not be as challenging. The age and condition of the older icebreakers have also added to the complexity of vessel scheduling. Coast Guard is compelled to repair the existing vessels to the best extent possible. An ongoing issue is with the requirement to replace main engines and/or key propulsion plant components; therefore, the number of heavy and medium icebreakers will be reduced over the next several years, by one or two vessels per winter season, in order to schedule major refits in an attempt to keep these icebreakers operating as long as possible. Coast Guard has shared the website link to the Vessel Life Extension Plan with the industry members for more transparency. Given the current age and condition of the icebreaking fleet, the 17 vessels should be interpreted as the maximum available platforms, with no guarantee these assets will be available should an unforeseen maintenance issue occur.
Due to the reduced availability of its fleet, the Coast Guard anticipates that it may require additional interim capacity at various times over the upcoming years. A Request for Information (RFI) was issued in November 2016 to collect information for interim additional icebreaking capacity. If Government proceeds with a Request for Proposal, industry will be engaged in planning for the deployment of any new assets. Moreover, in October 2017, two Requests for Supply Arrangements were issued to address short-term needs in Coast Guard’s service delivery on the Saint-Lawrence and the Great Lakes. Starting in winter 2017-2018, the supply arrangements will be used if Coast Guard has exhausted all contingency plans. The supply arrangements are meant to be an additional tool used under exceptional circumstances for the delivery of Coast Guard critical services.
Despite these challenges, the Coast Guard has endeavoured to meet as many of the user requirements as possible, in an equitable manner based on the established priorities and efficient in-year management in collaboration with industry partners. The Coast Guard will continue to use these measures into the future to the greatest extent possible. A comparison of the Industry Requirements and the proposed Coast Guard icebreaker deployment is provided under Annex A, which indicates the most effective allocation of the limited number of icebreakers in the Coast Guard fleet to best meet the needs of all clients, while balancing priorities and risks. The schedules outline the maximum deployments possible given current resource limitations. Industry has requested certain vessel types for the various ice regions, Coast Guard’s plan is to commit to an asset but not to a type of asset to allow maximum flexibility in responding to requirements. Service standards and performance indicators will remain the same.
After each ice season, Coast Guard will report to industry on the actual deployment of icebreakers against the plan. Coast Guard will also report response times. This will allow discussions on gaps in service if any and on possible measures to improve services.
The following is a summary of the proposed icebreaker deployment by area.
Great Lakes: Coast Guard plans to continue to deploy two icebreakers throughout the winter. Support from Quebec sector for the Seaway in late March will be provided if required and if available.
St. Lawrence River, Saguenay and Gulf: Seven icebreakers including air cushion vehicles are planned for providing servicing in the St. Lawrence River including icebreaker capacity to the Saguenay River and one extra icebreaker in April and May for the Gulf estuary if required.
East Coast and Gulf: Five icebreakers are planned to be deployed to cover the east coast.
Arctic: The Coast Guard will plan to maintain its deployment of five icebreakers in the Eastern Arctic, plus one icebreaker in the Western Arctic.
Industry Requested Icebreaker Deployment and Coast Guard Planned Deployment for 2017-2022 are available in Annex A.
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