The U.S. Coast Guard's (USCG) winter icebreaking season has officially kicked off in the Northeast, starting December 15 and running through March.
OP RENEW is the USCG's region-wide effort to ensure Northeast communities have the security, supplies, energy and emergency resources they need throughout the winter. Coast Guard units throughout the Northeast have been busy preparing for Operation RENEW by conducting training operations and prioritizing efforts. They are also replacing aids to navigation with special aids designed to ride underneath ice floes and remain on location. And the impact of these efforts extends well beyond the Northeast region.
To conduct operation RENEW, Coast Guard crews will use 140-foot Seagoing Icebreaking Tugs, 65-foot Small Harbor Tugs, 225-foot Juniper Class Buoy Tenders, U.S. Coast Guard Aircraft and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Aircraft.
During the Coast Guard’s 2014-2015 winter ice breaking season, known as Operation Reliable Energy for NorthEast Winters (RENEW), the USCG will conduct icebreaking operations to facilitate security operations with ports, waterways and coastal security missions; help prevent loss of life on the water and ashore when impacted by ice; provide urgent response to vessels that are directly impacted by ice; support communities that have need for fuel, food and medical supplies; assist in preventing or easing flood conditions and meet the reasonable demands of commerce to facilitate navigation on frozen, navigable waterways.
Seventy-five percent of all heating oil used in the country is transported through New England, New York and New Jersey. Ninety percent of that is delivered by barges through Coast Guard-protected ports. An average of 300 vessels transit the Hudson River during the winter months, carrying over 10 million barrels of petroleum products to the Northeast communities.
In 2014, The Coast Guard facilitated the movement of an estimated 7.96 million barrels of petroleum products and an estimated 297,000 tons of dry bulk products in the Northeast, which totaled near $2 billion.
The 2014 season was moderate to severe in terms of ice coverage and duration, and the harshest ice season since 2004. Ice began forming in mid-December on the Hudson, Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers, continued building throughout the winter with only a few short warm trends, and lasted through early April. Ice thicknesses varied from 4-30+" throughout 1st District and required major ice breaking efforts in all fresh/brackish waterways to keep them open for commercial passenger and petroleum cargo transits. The extreme cold created saltwater ice in many waterways which had not experienced ice in a decade.