Icebreaking Operations Directive 4: Support to Sealing Vessels
This administrative directive specifies the conditions under which Canadian Coast Guard icebreaking services may be provided in support of sealing vessels.f
The Minister of Fisheries & Oceans, through various legislative means including the Oceans Act, provides icebreaking services for the safe, economical and efficient movement of ships in Canadian waters and to decrease the risk of flooding as a result of ice build-up.
Each spring, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off the north east coast of Newfoundland, the annual seal hunt takes place, where vessels under 20m (65’) transport hunters through ice to seal herds. During this period frequent requests for icebreaking ferries are received as well as numerous distress calls from fishing vessels trapped in the ice. Transportation Safety Board Marine Occurrence Report findings on sealing vessel incidents have stated that some of these vessels are not designed for ice navigation.
Icebreaking services are provided for the safety of life and property in flood plain areas, the safety of navigation and to improve the efficiency of traffic movement in Canadian ice covered waters.
Typically, fishing vessels are not strengthened or reinforced to break through ice.
Due to the level of risk of damage to these vessels in heavy ice conditions, exceptions to Icebreaking Directive 1, section 3.2 a., have been implemented.
Icebreaking services in support of sealing vessels may be provided under the following conditions:
- all distress and emergency situations take precedence.
- escort services may be provided to assist sealing vessels out of heavy ice conditions and into workable-ice or open water.
Icebreakers may be used as a platform to assist Fisheries Management personnel with enforcement and monitoring functions, or to assist the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the event there are attempts to disrupt the seal hunt.
If icebreakers are required to transit through ice in the vicinity of seal pups, all due consideration is to be taken to avoid dense populations of seal pups.
Icebreaking will not be provided by the Canadian Coast Guard in the following situations:
- to allow sealing vessels direct access to the seal herds.
- to break up ice floes to prevent the sealing vessels from damaging their vessels while attempting to reach the seal herds.
The Superintendent, Icebreaking, under the direction of the Regional Director, Maritime Services, with the advice and assistance of functional staff at National Headquarters, is responsible for the application of the provisions of this directive.
5.0 Reference Documents
Please direct any inquiries about this directive to the Director of Operational Support, (613) 990-0341.
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