Coast guard busy breaking up icy conditions in Strait of Belle Isle

The ongoing heavy ice conditions in the Strait of Belle Isle is keeping pressure on the Canadian Coast Guard to clear the water for marine traffic.

Rebecca Acton-Bond, the acting superintendent of ice operations with the Canadian Coast Guard, said ice breakers have been busy, with the ferry in the Straits needing assistance nearly every day.

"We always have a ship strategically located around the province — on the west coast, on the northeast coast, on the east coast — and we try to move our icebreakers in a way that our largest icebreaker is in the area of the largest amount of ice, or the largest amount of pressure," she said.

Acton-Bond added that the CCGS Terry Fox icebreaker is working in the area to deal with the backlog in traffic. Labrador Marine has cancelled all departures for the MV Apollo on Wednesday and Thursday due to severe ice conditions.

'Very, very thick ice'

She said there's a high concentration of medium and thick ice, some as much as four feet thick, with a significant flow size.

"There's always ice in the Straits, but it's very, very thick ice," said Acton-Bond.

"Whenever the wind blows from a certain direction for any length of time, it creates pressure on that shore. Over the last number of days we've had an easterly component to the wind … but there's a captain there right now assessing the situation — and it still looks like the ice conditions are quite tight."

Winds important factor

Acton-Bond said currents and tides play a factor in the ice conditions, but wind is the largest determinant in the movement of ice, and she expects some help from the wind in the coming days.

"The winds are supposed to switch to a southwest component this afternoon, that should be good and relieve some of the pressure because [the winds] had been northeast for so long," she said.

"With the light component to the wind and the southwesterly blow that we're supposed to get this afternoon, my fingers are crossed that it's going to relieve some of that pressure."

According to Acton-Bond, the winds may also cause the movement of ice in other areas of the province.

"With the wind that we've got it seems like the ice is coming down the coast again on the Avalon Peninsula. We'll see in the next little while if any ferries on the east coast are requiring assistance as well," she said.

Labrador Marine has said that ferries will depart Blanc Sablon at 8:00 a.m., and St. Barbe at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, subject to improved ice conditions.