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New report released on Great Lakes shipping loses during winter months

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A new report from the Lake Carriers' Association, an organization representing the interests of the commercial shipping industry on the Great Lakes, says over a month of shipping time was lost during the winter months.

In a written statement, the association says over 1.6 million tons of cargo were delayed for over 600 hours due to ineffective ice breaking operations by the U.S. Coast Guard.

“It amazes me that a cargo container stuck in Chesapeake Bay or in the Suez Canal gets worldwide attention and that happens on the Great Lakes every year. The loss of one day of shipping is tremendous, but a month is devastating. Imagine if highways in the northern states didn’t have enough snowplows to keep traffic moving during frequent winter storms and sat on the road for a month…it is unacceptable,” stated Jim Weakley, President of the Great Maritime Task Force, in an email to WCMU.

Mark Gill of the U.S. Coast Guard at Sault St. Marie told WCMU he doesn’t know how those numbers were calculated and says the Coast Guard’s data doesn’t match.

Gill says many of the ships delayed in White Fish Bay during the first weeks of the winter season dropped anchor due to high winds and the Coast Guard offered a 92% waterway availability rate.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the ice conditions were “average” to “slightly below average” this winter.

During her recent Senate confirmation hearing, the new commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Linda Fagan, voiced support for funding of a new heavy ice breaker on the Great Lakes.

According to the Council on the Great Lakes region, if the Great Lakes shipping industry was its own country, it would have a gross domestic product (GDP) of $6 trillion, making it the third largest economy in the world.

Rick joined WCMU as a general assignment reporter in March 2022.