• The Icebreaking program of CCG provides icebreaking and related services to facilitate the informed, safe and timely movement of maritime traffic through and around ice-covered Canadian waters for the benefit of industry and communities.
  • This program activity includes escorting ships through ice-covered waters, freeing vessels beset in ice, conducting harbour breakouts, providing advice and ice information and reducing the risk of flooding on the St. Lawrence River through monitoring, prevention and breaking up of ice jams.
  • The limited number of icebreaking resources are deployed in the winter season as appropriate according to the general Fleet Deployment Plan, the advertized Icebreaking LOS and finally according to a cooperative approach between the four eastern regions, including pre-season planning and post-season review meetings. In-season re-deployment and prioritization are made according to the decisions reached during weekly conference calls (or more frequently as required) between all regions and HQ, as well as during pre-season planning and post-season review meetings.
  • The Icebreaking program contributes to Arctic sovereignty through the re-supply of northern communities, providing support to other government agencies and organizations and maintaining a visible federal government marine presence in the Canadian North.


  • To facilitate the safe and timely movement of maritime traffic through or around ice-covered waters
  • To minimize the effect of flooding caused by ice jams on the St. Lawrence River
  • To assist in the re-supply of northern communities for which there are no commercial services


  • Provision of information and advice to the marine community
  • Provision of icebreaking services

Service: Provision of information and advice to the marine community


  • Provision of recommended ice routes, ice charts, ice advisories, bulletins, briefings and advice to support safe navigation around difficult areas of ice. This information is obtained through ice reconnaissance and liaison with the Canadian Ice Service.
  • Monitoring of ice conditions on the St. Lawrence River to anticipate the development of ice jams and flooding and to determine the need for icebreaker intervention
  • Assisting Transport Canada by activating Ice Control Zones in Eastern Canada and assisting with the Arctic Ice Regime Shipping System, by monitoring the Ice Regime Routing Messages and issuing an acknowledgement to the vessel if the planned route appears appropriate

Service Standard

  • CCG Ice Operations Centres provide 24/7 services to mariners during the relevant areas as described in the Icebreaking service section.
  • Ice charts and forecasts in operational areas of interest to CCG are provided daily and weekly.

Service: Provision of icebreaking services


  • Icebreaking for flood prevention and the clearing of ice jams in the St. Lawrence River
  • Track maintenance to allow shipping to transit without direct icebreaker support through shore fast ice
  • Escorting vessels through ice-covered waters
  • Assisting beset vessels
  • Breakouts of commercial and fishing harbours
  • Re-supplying remote northern communities for which there are no commercial services
  • Supporting Arctic sovereignty in northern communities
  • Southern Canada (Winter season - generally December to May): East Coast; Gulf of St. Lawrence and St. Lawrence River; Newfoundland and Labrador waters; Great Lakes
  • Northern Canada (Summer season - generally late June to late October): Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Hudson Bay
  • Applicable priorities:
    • All distress and emergency situations take precedence (eg. ice jams)
      o Service requests from ferry services provided in accordance with the Terms of Confederation / Union will be given priority; other ferry services will receive priority as deemed appropriate by the CCG
    • Ships with vulnerable cargoes (i.e. pollution potential, dangerous goods, perishable) and vessels transporting cargo that is vital to the survival of communities
    • Marine traffic, fishing vessels and commercial ports
    • Fishing harbour breakouts
  • Commercial harbour breakouts are assigned on an opportunity basis, in ports where no commercial alternatives are available.
  • Fishing harbour breakouts are coordinated and scheduled for the end of the winter ice season and only if vessels can navigate safely outside the harbour limits.
  • Ships are assigned on a dedicated basis for flood control operations between Quebec and Montreal, and can provide route assistance on an opportunity basis.

Service Standard

  • Service dates for specific geographic areas are identified in the attached Annex A – Icebreaking Block Commitments
  • Target response times for icebreaker assistance are:
    • Labrador Coast – 8 hours
    • NE and East Coasts of Newfoundland – 8 hours
    • West Coast of Newfoundland – 12 hours
    • Gulf of St. Lawrence – 12 hours
    • St. Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers – 5 hours
    • Lakes Huron, Erie, Superior, Ontario – 8 hours
    • Arctic Waters – 10 hours
    • Fishing Harbour Breakouts – 24 hours
  • There are several variables that will affect the response times:
    • Location of the vessel requiring assistance
    • Whether the vessel has complied with recommended ice routing and other CCG advice
    • Whether or not the vessel is beset
    • Ice and weather conditions
    • Availability of an icebreaking resource
    • Proximity of an icebreaker to the vessel (transit time)
    • Capability of the assigned icebreaker
  • There are limitations that may affect delivery of icebreaking services:
    • Weather restrictions
    • Severity of ice season
    • Hydrographic and/or geographic restrictions
    • Safety restrictions/conditions that would unduly endanger CCG crew, ships or equipment
    • Availability of resources