EUPT, USCG partner to improve winter ferry service in upper Michigan

The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw prepares to depart Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to begin ice breaking operations, March 22, 2018. The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards helped break ice on Whitefish Bay and Lake Superior ahead of the opening of the Sault Ste Marie Locks on March 25. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Master Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf)

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — Members of the U.S. Coast Guard and Eastern Upper Peninsula Transit Authority singed a Memorandum of Understanding with a unified goal of improving ferry service during the winter to the St. Marys River’s three island communities in upper Michigan, Friday.

Capt. Marko Broz, commander, Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, and Pete Paramski, director of the EUP Transit Authority, signed the MOU aboard the passenger ferry, Sugar Islander.

Occasionally, ice obstructing the St Marys River halts or delays ferry service to Drummond, Neebish and Sugar Islands. The MOU formally lays out the responsibilities of the Coast Guard for ice breaking support of the three ferries operating on the St. Marys River. The agreement also explains the actions to be taken by EUP Transit Authority officials should any of the ferries become hindered by ice.

The western Great Lakes experienced 145 days of ice cover during the last winter season. Ten assets assigned to Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie for ice breaking delivered 3,179 hours of icebreaking representing 888 vessel transits; 386 of those transits required direct ice breaking assistance. These same ice-breaking assets put forth an additional 3,588 hours of preventative icebreaking to establish and maintain tracks in the ice-choked waterways of Green Bay, the Straits of Mackinac, the St Marys River, Georgian Bay, and the western Lake Superior Ports of Thunder Bay, Marquette, Duluth, and Superior.

On the St Marys River, ferry service to Drummond Island was never hindered by ice; ferry service to Neebish Island was hampered by ice for 28 days during Spring Break Out, and service to Sugar Island was delayed by ice a total of 76 hours over the 3,504 hours of winter operations. Overall, Sugar Island ferry service availability was 98%.



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