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Ice breakers keep Hudson River shipping lane open

Updated: 01/09/2014 4:56 PM
Created: 01/09/2014 3:41 PM WNYT.com
By: Bill Lambdin

Heading South on the Hudson River from Albany, it was 12 degrees Thursday morning when icy mooring lines were pulled in and the Coast Guard cutter Sturgeon Bay pushed out from the Port of Albany, making an ice-breaking run to Stuyvesant and back.

Either bigger ships or specialized ice breakers cut a track in the river almost daily, so that even when it is zero degrees the ice doesn't have a chance to get thick, closing the river.

Thursday morning the Sturgeon Bay was clearing away ice that had formed overnight. No problem.

"Every year over eight million barrels of petroleum product move up and down the Hudson River," said Commanding Office Lt. Kenneth Sauerbrunn. "Also, thousands of tons of dry goods as well."

The 140-foot vessel is staffed with a crew of 17 who stay on board during their deployment from home port of Bayonne, N.J. This crew is all male, although other ships with similar duties have women assigned as well.

Near the mid-point of the 2.5-hour round trip from Albany the Sturgeon Bay passed a much larger vessel making its way up river to the port.

The ships passed each other closely. The cleared, deep channel is narrow for almost all the river's length. The other ship was pushing aside thin chunks of ice on its own, but without the frequent efforts of the Sturgeon Bay and other ice breakers, winter deliveries of fuel oil and other necessities for this area wouldn't be coming by bulk at lower costs made possible by year round river traffic.

The Coast Guard cutter Sturgeon Bay makes its way through the ice on the Hudson River.
Photo: WNYT

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