U.S., Canadian coast guards free freighter stuck in ice on Detroit River

A U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard vessel escorted ships through frozen waters near Boblo Island. (CCG Cutter Samuel Risley Commanding Officer Marc Boucher/Twitter - image credit)
A U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard vessel escorted ships through frozen waters near Boblo Island. (CCG Cutter Samuel Risley Commanding Officer Marc Boucher/Twitter - image credit)

A freighter is once again making its way up the Detroit River after becoming temporarily stuck in the ice.

The ship became stuck near the southern tip of Boblo Island, but the Canadian and U.S. coast guards were on hand to help free the ship and send it on its way at about 11 a.m.

The ship had been stuck overnight, waiting for the coast guard vessels to resume operations Thursday morning and free it. The incident also prevented three other vessels, which were behind the stuck ship, from moving along the river until the ship was freed.

"We've launched Operation Coal Shovel, which is a joint, bi-national operation with the Canadians and the Americans to ensure maritime commerce runs smoothly as the ice builds up," said Ensign Adeeb Ahmad of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Detroit. "Usually, we start this operation in mid-January ... but due to the winter storm and the ice buildup, we started on Monday."

"What we're doing now is, we're just monitoring the area and we're ice breaking, and any ships that need our help getting free from the ice, we're there to assist."

Isabelle Pelchat, ice breaking superintendent for the Canadian Coast Guard's Central Region, said the recent storm led to the quick formation of ice in the western basin of Lake Erie, and the Livingstone Channel of the Detroit River.

"We've been assisting shipping for a few days now," Pelchat said. "We've escorted, jointly with the U.S. Coast Guard ... over 30 ships already."

She said the recent winter storm is behind the treacherous conditions on the water.

"It had an effect that we hadn't seen before at this time of the year," Pelchat said. "The combined cold weather and the show just created that ice formation, and it was spread very quickly."

"In the Livingstone Channel, it went up to two feet, the ice, so that was something that is really unusual," she said. "We're expecting that the warm weather that is starting now, and will continue for the rest of the week, will ease conditions and make it much easier."

Stacey Janzer/CBC
Stacey Janzer/CBC

Jeff Brown, who's lived in the area for two years, said there's been a "traffic jam" of ships on the Detroit River in recent days, with the coast guard helping several ships move along the river, through the ice.

"The storm that came through just around Christmas there, I witnessed this lake freeze over within 24 hours," he said. "Freeze over probably about 1,000 feet out, almost to the shipping channel."