Senators Reintroduce Great Lakes Icebreaker Bill

Written by Heather Ervin
Great Lakes icebreaker

Image Credit: Photo by Petty Officer Third Class George Degener, USCG

March 2021

On March 3, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) reintroduced the Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act. The bipartisan legislation aims to codify the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaking mission on the Great Lakes and increase the icebreaking capacity of the Great Lakes fleet.

The senators say that icebreaking is critical for commerce in the Great Lakes, and increasing icebreaking capacity will help the many businesses and workers that rely on the maritime industry to transport their goods to market and grow the regional economy.

We say: it’s about time.

Icebreaking capacity in the Great Lakes supports more than 90 million tons of cargo annually. A study commissioned by the Lake Carriers’ Association found that during the 2018-2019 ice season, businesses that depend upon the Great Lakes maritime industry lost more than $1 billion in revenues because of delays caused by inadequate icebreaking. These economic losses resulted in the loss of over 5,000 jobs throughout the Great Lakes region.

“Inadequate icebreaking capacity in the Great Lakes is costing us thousands of American jobs and millions in business revenue,” said Baldwin. “We must boost our icebreaking capacity in the Great Lakes to keep our maritime commerce moving. I’m proud to partner with Senators Young and Peters on this bipartisan effort that will move our region closer to getting the sufficient icebreaking resources needed to support our maritime industry, mitigate devastating climate-related events and protect our Great Lakes for generations to come. I will keep working with my colleagues to get this job done for Wisconsin businesses and workers.”

Another great thing happening this month is the return of our free virtual TTB—Tugs, Towboats & Barges event on March 23-24.

While we hope to meet in person next year, we have a great lineup of speakers scheduled for this year, with an even bigger attendance expected than in previous years.

Jennifer Carpenter, President and CEO of the American Waterways Operators, will open the event on Day 1. With key waterways legislation just enacted and a new administration now in office, Carpenter’s topic couldn’t be timelier. She’ll speak on “Opportunities and Challenges for the Tugboat, Towboat and Barge Industry with a New Administration and Congress.”

In addition to Carpenter, TTB will feature an interesting look by the NTSB at lessons learned from recent tug and towboat accidents, everything you hope you never need to know about restructuring your business, offshore wind opportunities for the tug and barge market, and more. The complete agenda is on our website (

This March is looking a lot better than last March to say the least!  

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