The Coast Guard set its annual icebreaking programs into motion for the Great Lakes and Northeast ports, days after the season’s first outbreak of Arctic cold spread snow showers as far south as Texas and Louisiana.

On Dec. 16 the Coast Guard opened Operation Taconite, the annual program named for the iron ore shipped on the western Great Lakes.

The 225'x46'13' cutter Alder is assigned to the ports of Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wisc., and will also provide icebreaking to Thunder Bay, Ontario. The 140'x37'6"x13' cutter Biscayne Bay will keep the St. Mary’s River open.

In the Northeast, the Coast Guard First District based in Boston, Mass., coordinates Operation Reliable Energy for Northeast Winters (RENEW), an icebreaking operation named for the region’s heavy reliance on heating oil shipped by barge and tanker. Some 85% of U.S. heating oil is burned in the Northeast states and of that 90% arrives via barge, according to the Coast Guard.

In Northeast ports and New York’s Hudson River, icebreaking operations typically employ 140’ icebreaking tugs, 65’ small harbor tugs, with heavier ice conditions calling for 225’ and 175’ buoy tenders, and 49’ Buoy Utility Stern Landing (BUSL) boats. Along with preparing for ice operations, buoy tender crews are replacing aids to navigation with special ice buoys, which can ride underneath ice floes and remain on location.