Icebreaker to help Marine Atlantic ferries cross through pack ice

Extreme ice conditions have caused travel interruptions for Marine Atlantic ferries, but the vessels are starting to get back on track as of Wednesday.

The Highlanders was trapped in ice about 300 metres from Low Point, N.S., on Tuesday.

The Blue Puttees, en route from Port aux Basques, N.L., to North Sydney, N.S., was able to help get the other ferry out of the ice.

Darryl Mercer, who handles media inquiries for Marine Atlantic, said winds have shifted and are easing some of the ice pressure in the Cabot Strait, but Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker George R. Pearkes will be on the route Wednesday.

"We're hoping to have that vessel on scene to provide any assistance if the ice problems present themselves today and tomorrow," said Mercer.

"Both of the [Marine Atlantic] vessels are ice class so they have icebreaking capabilities to get through, but it's simply a matter of knowing where the heaviest ice is."

The ferries are slowly getting back on schedule, Mercer said, and the ferry crews are doing what they can to get through ice.

"Our captains will be looking at the different paths that they can take through that ice to avoid the thickest areas and should we encounter an area like we did yesterday, of course we're pleased that the coast guard will have that ice breaker in the area to provide assistance if necessary."

Mercer said he doesn't have exact numbers on how many ferry crossings have been affected by ice conditions.

Marine Atlantic will sail on delayed schedules or combine crossings, and use the Leif Ericson to help with backlog on the route.

"Winter in Newfoundland … I'd like to see spring finally arrive. This winter seems to be hanging on," said Mercer.