After one of the five coldest Decembers in recorded history, The Great Lakes Towing Company is finishing up one of its busiest seasons in recent history of icebreaking on the Great Lakes.
While the U.S. Coast Guard's role in assisting ships through the ice of the Great Lakes is relatively well-known, few people outside the marine industry realize that U.S. Coast Guard assistance is provided mainly in the federally-maintained navigation channels, and that commercial tugboats with icebreaking capability, and their dedicated crews, assist as many, if not more, ships in harbors throughout the lakes each winter season.
During the 2000-2001 winter to date, the tugboats of The Great Lakes Towing Company, an affiliate of The Great Lakes Group
, have performed 290 vessels icebreaking assists. These commercial vessel assists ensure that vital commodities, such as iron ore, coal, road salt, and heating oil, among others, reach customers throughout the Midwest. The 2000-2001 winter has proven particularly difficult for shippers due to the early and severe onset of lake ice. Most significantly, the Company's icebreaking tugboats have made the export of American coal to Canada possible from Ashtabula and Conneaut, Ohio, throughout the winter.
For over 100 years, The Great Lakes Towing Company has been the primary provider of commercial harbor icebreaking services on Great Lakes. This season, tugboats of The Great Lakes Towing Company even
conducted icebreaking operations on the open waters of Lake Erie, the Detroit River, the St. Mary's River and Green Bay, icebreaking work that would normally be conducted by U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking
vessels. Many of The Great Lakes Towing Company's captains have 20 to 30 years of icebreaking experience.
The Great Lakes Group, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, owns and operates more than 50 tugboats, and is the largest U.S.-flag tugboat company engaged in towing on the Great Lakes. The Group operates across the United States in more than 35 U.S. ports, in all eight Great Lakes states, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Company's tugboats are designed with heavy-duty icebreaking hulls that allow them to operate in even the most demanding of ice conditions. What is not so widely known is that the Group's tugboat operations extend from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to Hawaii. The Group also charters tugs to other companies worldwide.