U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Create Safe River Lanes

USCG Cutter Sturgeon Bay on frozen Hudson River/USCG

USCG Cutter Sturgeon Bay on frozen Hudson River/USCG

“With two to three cutters on the river every day and all of them moving from one point to another, the river is open to commerce,” Charles W. Rowe, U.S. Coast Guard Public Affairs, Sector New York, said. “There are obviously restrictions based on the ice and precautions that have to be taken. The same can be said every winter.” Rowe explained when and how the USCG cuts through the frozen waters of the Hudson:

“From mid-December until mid-March (or later if ice dictates), we keep open a channel (we call it a track) between NYC and Albany and the smaller ports in between to facilitate the movement of barges up and down the river, primarily so home heating oil can reach the Hudson Valley communities,” he said.

This includes an open lanes for barges transporting supplies from the Port of Coeymans — a staging area for Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) — to the bridge project. “While the ice is getting in the way of transit, the Coast Guard is doing what it’s doing, and that’s clearing a path,” VP Sales & Operations Stephen Kelly said. He would not comment further on TZC’s operations.

Cutters break ice every day of the week along various stretches of river, depending upon the ice.

USCG Cutter Thunder Bay: Catskill, NY/USCG Lt. Zac Bender

USCG Cutter Thunder Bay: Catskill, NY/USCG Lt. Zac Bender

“Our number one mission is to keep this entire track open,” Rowe said. While the lane/track width varies, the ice is cut to allow two vessels traveling in opposite directions to pass safely each other.

They’re used in rotation: this year, he said, the the Sturgeon Bay, Thunder Bay, Willow, Line and Hawser have plowed through the river at a different area any day. “In practical terms, this winter, we have worked primarily from the TZ Bridge north,” he said.

The Coast Guard does emergency aid (“breakouts”) to trapped fuel terminals; however, Rowe said, “the primary responsibility for keeping docks, piers and ports navigable rests with the facility operators. They use commercial tugs to break up the ice in the immediate vicinity of their facilities. The same procedure is followed in NY Harbor.”

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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