December 22, 2022 | Circular No. 11475

Dear Member,

The Federation held the annual Pre-Season Ice Meeting virtually on November 22, 2022. The event was attended by over 50 participants including Federation members, the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Port Authorities, Pilotage Authorities, and other industry stakeholders. The meeting provided participants with both a recap of the previous winter and an outlook for the upcoming winter with perspectives from the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada, Environment & Climate Change Canada, Laurentian Pilotage Authority and the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.  The presentations can be found on the Federation’s home page under Documents – Pre-Season Ice Meetings.

The Canadian Coast Guard provided a Marine Programs update for the Central region with an emphasis on Fleet Renewal, Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS), Aids to Navigation (ATON) and Waterways Management.  The selection process to officially name the third shipyard in Canada continues and once finalized, they will be awarded one Polar icebreaker and 6 program icebreakers.  The Canadian Coast Guard has a comprehensive plan in place to transition to the new fleet, including an extensive vessel life extension plan for existing vessels and the addition of four interim vessels.  The newest vessel, the CCGS Judy LaMarsh, who will undergo trails this winter in the Great Lakes, but used for tasking if necessary.

The Fall buoy decommissioning commenced on November 11th with the removal of the Quebec to Montreal lighted buoys.  The Grondines to Montreal priority buoys are scheduled to start December 1st.  The Great Lakes buoy decommissioning will begin in the Beauharnois Canal on December 22nd and work westwards and estimated to complete the Montreal-Lake Ontario sector by December 28th.

The Four-Season Buoy project completed the initial scope of the project on September 30, 2022 with 183 buoys being deployed between Lac Saint-Louis and the Traverse Nord.  The four-season buoy project contributes significantly to the mandate of the Aids to Navigation program, and significantly reduces the demand on the Coast Guard fleet as the buoys can be kept in the water for 2 years without maintenance.  Overall, there are 258 buoys across all regions of Canada and looking to expand the initiative to the Atlantic and Great Lakes regions.  More details can be found on the eNavigation webpage.

The Canadian Coast Guard provided an update on the Icebreaking Program for the Central and Atlantic, a 2021/2022 seasonal review outlining various demands for CCG services across the regions and a 2022/2023 seasonal preview. Coast Guard continues the approach of partial ice control zone activation authorized by the Atlantic Ice Office to be more flexible in partially activating Ice Control Zones to reflect actual ice conditions.  The Coast Guard will also engage with Transport Canada and stakeholders to discuss the area between Sept Isles and Les Escoumins in which there is a gap in the Ice Control Zone Coverage.  For the Central region, last season saw below average ice conditions as ice formed later however, extended longer than usual at the end of the season.    The Atlantic had a very busy year due to late season conditions which increased vessel taskings considerably.

Looking ahead to the 2022/23 season, the Montreal Ice Operations will be staffed with ice officers available 24/7 and working closely with ice service specialists. The Ice Atlantic office opened in November due to local ice conditions in Labrador and supported by the Canadian Ice Service.  Ice information and routing will be sent to shipping via MCTS stations, e-mail or phone – whichever communication method is most suitable.  There will be three vessels undergoing vessel life extension this winter, however will be replaced by the three interim icebreakers, which are now all fully operational.  Daily ice conference calls will be held with industry to present ice and weather conditions, forecasts and discuss Coast Guard asset operations.

The Canadian Coast Guard provided an update on their Marine Programs Icebreaking Levels of Service (LoS) Review.  The Icebreaker Requirements is a public document that outlines stakeholders Icebreaking demand and the subsequent planned fleet deployment to meet stakeholder needs.  The document, first created 1997, was last updated to cover the 2017-2022 period, and consultations with stakeholders are underway for the next 5-year period.  Initial findings highlight the need for more Coast Guard assets, however also reflect positive industry views on Coast Guard personnel, the level of ice information offered, and the daily ice office calls. Industry has suggested minor adjustments to the existing block commitments, particularly to align with Seaway dates, and also signal a general increase in marine traffic in the coming years.  The Coast Guard will be issuing a “What we Heard” document before making recommendations for Commissioner for approval.



The Department of Fisheries and Oceans presented their study on the importance of icebreaking services on international trade.  The study was conducted to better understand the economic aspects of the Coast Guard’s operations and to examine the flow of international trade that is facilitated by the icebreaking program.  The analysis focused on areas in Canada where icebreaking activity occurs, which accounted for $119 billion (or 53%) of the total $225 billion in Canadian marine trade in 2020.  Marine trade in the icebreaking regions is weighted towards the import of goods, which accounted for 67 per cent total traded value in 2020.  Of the $151 billion in internationally traded merchandise in the icebreaking zones in 2020, nearly $60 billion occurred during ice season.  The Coast Guard are considering future projects including; linking international trade activity to domestic industries, evaluating the possibility of transitioning to volumetric measures of trade and expanding the analysis to look at domestic movement of goods on the water.



The Canadian Ice Service a provided a recap of the previous season as well as their 2022/2023 pre-seasonal outlook for the upcoming winter.  Last year, ice conditions across the Gulf and Atlantic regions started slow, however increased in some areas towards the end of the season.  Across the Gulf and around Newfoundland, total ice accumulated ice cover was well below the average, however off Labrador ice conditions were well above last season, and persisted longer than usual.  Since the summer, air and sea surface temperatures across the region have been above normal.  Looking ahead to this winter, the air temperature forecasts (December to March) indicate above normal temperatures across the region.  As a result, the sea ice forecast for the Gulf is expected to be below normal however expect higher amounts of sea ice to flow into the Strait of Belle Isle in February and March.  For Eastern Newfoundland, the sea ice forecast is expected to be about normal with possibly more ice expected than last year along the north shore late in the season.  The CIS forecast for normal ice conditions in waters off the South Labrador and above normal ice conditions off the North Labrador coast with sea ice forming 2-3 weeks earlier this year in the Davis Strait.  The seasonal outlook will be issued on December 1st and the first 30-day forecast will be issued to the public on December 15th.



Transport Canada reported on their ship safety winter navigation statistics from last season as well as their objectives for the upcoming winter season. Last year was a relatively quiet and mild winter with respect to winter navigation incidents, although there were a few weeks in January which saw active frazil ice formation.  Excluding wide-beam vessels, the winter navigation season was between December 23rd to March 31st. The conformity of ships for last winter was 89%.  There were only 16 vessels with a total of 16 deficiencies recorded which was the lowest in the last 8 years.  For the upcoming season, Transport Canada will continue to monitor vessels that have open/closed loop scrubbers and continue to gather data regarding power to length ratio.  Transport Canada provided an update on proposed changes to the Vessel Construction and Equipment Regulations (VCER), which were updated to allow for the long-established practice of approving internal circulation Types 3, 4, 5 & 6 as valid ways to prevent frazil ice or slush from blocking sea inlets.

The Laurentian Pilotage Authority outlined their pre-winter, winter and post-winter periods and explained the criteria to transition between each.  The pre-winter period could be implemented if a 4-season lighted buoy becomes non-functional or out of position.  The winter period is the trigger for double pilotage on all vessels and the Authority will determine the winter navigation period in each pilotage district based on the status of navigational aids, weather, ice formation and ice conditions and other pertinent factors. The LPA will communicate with industry prior to declaring the winter period.  The LPA reported last season there were severe ice conditions at the Québec Bridges, long periods of intense cold with plenty of snow and increased surveillance undertaken at Lake Saint-Pierre and the Québec Bridges.

Finally, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) provided an overview of the Seaway closing preparations for the 2022/23 winter season.  This year international traffic made up 37% of all tonnage in the system, compared to 32% last year.  Overall, vessel transits are up this season with 1741 ships through the MLO and 2130 through the Welland Canal compared to 1700 and 2048 transits last year, respectively.  The Seaway advise the water levels on Lake Ontario are low yet stable, thus the draft restriction will remain in place until conditions improve.  The official closing date for the 2022 navigation season is December 31st for the Montreal to Lake Ontario section and January 7th for the Welland Canal.  At this time, all meteorological indicators point to a favourable closing and the freeze-up forecast is expected to be 10-14 days late compared to average.  The Seaway will be holding regular calls with industry leading up to the closing during which the Seaway will provide status updates on conditions, infrastructure, icebreaking assets, buoy tending, pilotage, etc.

Please contact the undersigned if you have any questions or comments.


Chad Allen

Director, Marine Operations