Links to the presentations along with its summary is listed below as per the Agenda:

  Topic and Presenters
1. Canadian Coast Guard (CCG): Central Region Marine Programs Update

Jason Rimmer – Acting Regional Director, Navigational Programs, Central Region

CCG provided a Marine Programs update for the Central region with emphasis on Coast Guard Fleet Renewal, as well as an update on regional Navigational Programs, which are Icebreaking, Waterways management, Aids to Navigation and Marine Communications and Traffic Services.

CCG does not anticipate any issues accommodating vessels needing services due to the extended Seaway opening until January 7th. While they don’t foresee any immediate issues in meeting the prolonged Seaway demands and their own service requirements, CCG stated that confirmation on Fleet availability is pending. They’ve also highlighted that the extent of ice conditions will influence their flexibility to provide services.

With respect to AtoNs, CCG presented their decommission schedule for this year as well as the Fall Buoy Tending Operations.  CCG stated that they are progressing well with the 4 season buoy program.

2. Ice Operations Centres: Operational Plans for Winter 2023/2024

  • Guillame Paradis – Superintendent Icebreaking, Central and Arctic Region
  • Michael Pope  – Operations Officer, Atlantic Region
This joint presentation provided a review of the 2022-2023 icebreaking season and a forecast for the icebreaking season ahead 2023-2024, including the ships deployment plan in the Central and Atlantic region.

CCG reported that Transport Canada has permitted their office in the Atlantic more flexibility in activating the Ice Control zones such as the Uniform in the East Coast of Newfoundland and Victor in the Gulf.

The various icebreakers and planned areas of operation from December through April were outlined.  CCG mentioned that a couple of icebreakers were still pending engine trials.  The Judy LaMarsh will be in dry-dock in the next few weeks and is scheduled to be up and running in March 2025.

Hours of operations and Contact Information for the Atlantic, Central and St. Lawrence region is provided in the presentation.  Communications can be transmitted via the MCTS Station, Email or Phone.

Daily Ice-Briefings will begin 3rd Week of December at 14h00 for the St. Lawrence Sector and in the morning for the Great Lakes Sector.

3. Icebreaking Levels of Service & Performance Management

Isabelle Pelchat – Manager, National Icebreaking Program, Canadian Coast Guard

The presentation followed up on engagement sessions for the Coast Guard icebreaking Levels of Service (LOS), its proposed changes, and new Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

With regards to LOS, response time was increased due to factors influenced by navigational hours for icebreakers in the region to better match the operational realities.
CCG updated their response times as follows:

  • Increased from 5 to 6 Hours: For St. Lawrence and Saguenay River
  • Increased from 8 to 12 Hours: For Newfoundland Northeast and East Coast, and the Labrador Coast

It must be noted that the response time for the Arctic remains the same at 10 hours.

With regards to proposed new changes to program reporting, the report focuses on average response time instead of percentage levels of service.

With respect to timing as to when to request ice-breaking service, CCG emphasized that they must be advised at the outset the time an ice breaker is required.  The time negotiated between the Ice Office and the Captain of the vessel requesting the service is not required by CCG.  Therefore, if an ice breaker is required for 16h00, the request must be for 16h00 regardless of when the Captain is made aware of the icebreaker’s presence in the region.

CCG also pointed out that delays due to weather is captured as a “weather delay” and not a “delay by Coast-Guard”.  Therefore, that delay is not reflected as a “delay” in the LOS.

It is also important to note that previously, a delay was imposed on an entire convoy consisting of 2 or 3 ships. However, the updated approach will involve applying the delay individually to each ship (2 or 3), rather than to the convoy as a whole.

With a view to providing industry more transparency, CCG will publish a dashboard showing their service request and response times.  The dashboard will display biweekly data by region.  CCG will incorporate more program elements into their reporting including track maintenance.  This will aid CCG to monitor average response times and delays in their operating regions.  CCG indicated that these reports would be published within the next few weeks.

CCG requests feedback on the improved levels of service and new performance indicators as the season progresses so they can incorporate industry perspective.

3. Environment and Climate Change Canada – Seasonal Forecast 2023/2024

George Karaganis – Senior Meteorologist, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)

The presentation from ECCC showed differences between the actual temperature and ‘normal’ temperature for the period and concluded that winter has been warmer specifically in the Western and Central Gulf region.  The sea surface temperatures were above normal all summer and were 3 to 4 degrees Celsius above normal for the period at mid-November over the Gulf.

Of note was Slide 6 which displayed the median ice coverage (illustrated by the green line).  The slide also pointed out that:

  • Last year was a well below normal ice season for the Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • There was a late start to ice season due to high temperatures and high sea surface temperatures which meant that there was thinner ice and that ice melted sooner.
  • The peak ice coverage occurred in late February’s rare cold spell.  However, the ice formed during this time remained mostly thin and quickly melted with the winds/waves from the following weather system.

The green line in Slide 11 displayed the median ice coverage in East Newfoundland.  Following the peak, the spring melt progressed four weeks ahead of schedule.

Slide 18 displayed air temperature anomalies for the past summer.  The areas from green to red implied warmer than normal temperatures and areas in blue to purple indicated colder than normal surface air temperatures.  It was interesting to note that air temperatures this summer were 1 to 1.5 degrees Celsius above normal for the most part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Newfoundland and Southern Labrador.

Slides 19 and 20 displayed air temperature anomaly for the Fall up to 22 November, 2023.  Here it showed a 4 to 5 degrees Celsius above normal temperature for the Gulf and Newfoundland.

Slides 21 to 25 shows the two forecasts which continue to lean towards above normal temperatures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence at the end of winter.  The NMME* forecast introduces a chance of below normal temperatures along the Labrador Coast in March, contrasting with the ECCC forecast which continues the probability of above normal temperatures.

(*The NMME North American Multi-Model Ensemble is a seasonal forecasting system)

Slide 26 to 28 shows that in the regions of Hudson Bay and Northern Quebec, the temperatures are warmer than average by 4⁰ to 6⁰ Celsius.

  • The CIS forecasts below normal ice year for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Northeast of Newfoundland.
  • The CIS forecasts near normal ice year for Labrador.

The Seasonal Outlook will be issued to the public on Friday, December 1st.

The first 30 day forecast will be issued to the public on Friday December 15th.

Contact details are provided in the last slide.

4. Transport Canada Ship Safety Winter Operations

Agnes Tomsic – Marine Safety Inspector

The presentation commenced with some history of the Ship Safety in Winter Operations program with a specific mention of the 2011/2012 winter which recorded many incidents arising from the lack of installation of Sea Water (SW) Cooling Recirculation system.  Vessels which are now not equipped with proper SW Cooling Recirculation system cannot proceed from Les Escoumins pilot station.

SOLAS Chapters V and IX provide regulations for safe practices in ship operations and safe working environment and establishes safeguards against all identified risks.

Indeed, observations were made that despite the installation of an adequate Sea Water Cooling System in some of the vessels, a significant number of engine room crew members lacked experience navigating in extremely cold waters, and unaware that the water going on board should be deviated back to the sea chest to maintain operational flow.  It is therefore now identified as a “human factor” problem where crew should be trained on how to use the system and not clog seawater chests and strainers.

Slide 6 highlighted a critical concern regarding vessels navigating sideways past the Quebec bridges, posing a significant threat to our infrastructure. Additionally, the presentation emphasized the challenge posed by thick ice, leading to vessels being immobilized, relying solely on tide movements. At such times, when a vessel loses control, the powerful ice flow dictates its movement, creating a challenging scenario for the bridge crew to regain control of the ship.

Slides 8 and 9 discussed frazil ice which is described as having a snowstorm in the water.

Statistics were provided in slides 12 through 16 regarding ship compliance, number of incidents, categories of incidents for the 2022/23 winter.

Slide 17 discussed EGCS (Exhaust Gas Cleaning System) Scrubbers.  This is a device installed onboard marine vessels that literally “scrubs” harmful sulphur oxides from exhaust gases. This technology is commonly installed on ships seeking compliance options in the face of tighter emissions regulations.  Attention is brought to the fact that ship operators are unaware of the potential risks associated with the use of wet exhaust gas cleaning system in winter conditions.

It was pointed out that incidents involving frazil ice is unique to Canada and specifically to Quebec area.

TC will continue to monitor closely vessels that have open and closed loop scrubbers (EGCS) and also continue to gather data regarding power to length ratio.

It is important to note that vessels move better in ice when in laden condition than in ballast.

5. Laurentian Pilotage Authority – Winter Navigation Rules

Sylvain Lachance – Special Advisory, Laurentian Pilotage Authority

The presentation explained the conditions and approximate dates of pre-winter, winter and post-winter periods as defined by the Laurentian Pilotage Authority.  The post-winter period applies the same conditions as required by the pre-winter period.  However, the conditions are different for each district of navigation.

Slide 4 points out the following factors considered to declare the Winter Period and the beginning of double pilotage:

  • Aids to Navigations (buoy placement status from CCG)
  • Water temperature
  • Air temperature and forecast
  • Wind speed and direction and forecast
  • Precipitation forecast

The contrast of winter conditions was presented where it was pointed out that the winter of 2019/2020 was mild and considered a nice winter whereas the winter of 2021/2022 was very severe and navigation in the St. Lawrence was forced to shut down.

6. St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation – Seaway Closing

Jean Aubry-Morin – Vice President, External Relations


The presentation delved into the 2023 Operations Review, detailing the annual transit figures.  Generally, there’s been a slight decrease in vessel transits this season, registering 1707 transits in the Montreal Lake Ontario (MLO) section and 2088 in the Welland Canal, compared to last year’s figures of 1741 and 2130 transits, respectively. Slide 8 specifically highlighted the delays per transit per section, and subsequent slides provided a more granular breakdown of delay hours across different regions.

Water regulations and management was presented in slides 12 through 15.  The forecast for water levels is expected to rise 5% if similar wet conditions continue, 50% with average conditions and 95% if dry conditions were to occur.

At this time, all meteorological indicators point to a favourable closing and the freeze-up forecast is expected to be 3-4 days late compared to average.

The official closing date for the 2023 navigation season is 5th January 2024 at 10h00 for the MLO Section and 7th January, 2024 at 12h00.

More communications from the Seaway will be forthcoming in the next few weeks specifically the daily teleconference meeting via Zoom.  These calls will provide status updates on conditions, infrastructure, icebreaking assets, buoy tending, pilotage etc.