Breaking Ice


The Coast Guard conducts ice-breaking operations when winter’s cold temperatures impact every port, waterway, and harbor in the Northeast. This season’s ice-breaking operations, launched on Dec. 17 and dubbed “Operation Reliable Energy for Northeast Winters” consist of a region-wide effort by the USCG’s 1st District Northeast to ensure Northeast communities have the security, supplies, energy, and emergency resources they need throughout the winter. The Coast Guard said.

U.S. Coast Guard Shackle’s crew regularly breaks ice along Maine’s rivers to keep them open for commercial traffic and to prevent flooding. Here the ship breaks ice on the Penobscot River in Bangor, Maine, Feb. 21, 2013. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Simpson.

The crew aboard the Coast Guard’s Penobscot Bay Ice Cutter works to ensure that barges carrying heating oil can sail safely up the Hudson River from New York City to Albany, reported Emily DeFeciani of the CBS affiliate in Albany. “Literally heating up the whole Northeast by keeping the Hudson River open,” Commanding Officer Lt. Kristopher Valdez said in a news segment carried on Channel 6 News in February.

Of the heating oil used in the country, more than 85% is consumed in the Northeast, and 90% of that is delivered on a Coast Guard maintained waterway by ship, the Coast Guard said.

Domestic ice-breaking operations are intended to facilitate navigation within reasonable demands of commerce and minimize waterways closures during the winter, while enabling commercial vessels to transit through ice-covered critical channels, the Coast Guard said.

Coast Guard crews are also replacing aids to navigation with special ice buoys designed to ride underneath ice and remain on location.


A coordinated effort with the maritime industry ensures the vital ports of the Northeast remain open year-round.


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