Coast Guard frees two vessels from ice on St. Marys River - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Coast Guard frees two vessels from ice on St. Marys River

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Coast Guard teams from the United States and Canada worked together Thursday to free two ships frozen in icy Michigan waters.

They caused a traffic jam on an important commercial river route that is about to close for the season.

“This is a common occurrence for ships to become stuck in the ice. And when they do become stuck in the ice, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Canadian Coast Guard, we work together to get those vessels out of the ice as quick as possible,” said Lt. J.G. Sean Murphy with the U.S. Coast Guard.

For several hours, Coast Guards from two nations cut through ice around two freighters stuck near Neebish Island. With two freighters stuck, 11 other vessels had to stop in their tracks.

"They're restricting the waterway to seven vessels that are currently waiting to go upbound the river and four vessels that are currently waiting to go downbound the river,” Murphy said.

With the Soo Locks scheduled to close on Jan. 15, freighters waiting to go upbound lost crucial time to load up on iron ore.

"This is an important time of the year for them. They are trying to build up for those stockpiles that they are going to need, after we close the locks they are going to have about 10 weeks where they aren't going to be able to move steel, so it’s a really important time of year for them,” said Joanne Gray with Army Corps of Engineers.

The Coast Guard said they will continue to cut ice throughout the river to keep the ships moving.

"The U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard, we help facilitate over $1 billion of cargo to be moved up and down the river in the winter. The Coast Guard prepares for this winter operation every year,” Murphy said.

Once the Army Corps of Engineers closes those locks down, they don't open back up until March 25.

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