OTTAWA—A lack of ice-breaking ships on one of the world’s largest freshwater transportation systems could lead to delays in shipping cargo to and from Canada and the United States, according to the Canadian Shipowners Association (CSA).
The CSA said it is “extremely concerned” that ice breakers may not be able to clear routes along the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes that have been covered in ice following an especially harsh winter in the region.
“The Canadian Coast Guard is doing its utmost to work with resources across a large geographical area subject to heavy ice, but this situation is rippling into Canada’s transportation and economic system,” the association said in a statement released this week.
The waterway has been plagued by the “thickest and broadest ice cover in years,” the CSA said.
A lack of ice-breaking ability could further affect Canadian grain shipments, which have been hampered by a lack of rail capacity in the Prairies.
Ottawa has since ordered rail firms to move a minimum of 500,000 tonnes a week of grain, but the CSA said it will likely remain stored in ports along the seaway system until ice is removed.
Iron ore, construction materials, salt and petroleum products will also be affected by the ice cover, according to the association.
“CSA and its members have advised the Canadian Coast Guard of the need to employ three ice-breakers to support the opening of the Great Lakes-Seaway system,” the statement continues.
“Disappointingly, the Canadian Coast Guard’s effort to commit the necessary resources appears to be late as it manages challenging winter conditions in many regions.”
The statement goes on to blame the lack of ships and the age of the ice-breaking fleet for being unable “to support the economic and environmental benefits of short-sea-shipping in Canada.”