Tuesday 24 March 2020

CCGS PIERRE RADISSON - Medium Icebreaker (Revisited)

Built in 1978 CCGS PIERRE RADISSON is makings good speed by Crysler Farm Battlefied Park and Mariatown.
What a difference a year makes. About this time last year I was standing along the St. Lawrence River listening in aw as the big or as the Canadian Coast Guard prefers to call it, medium icebreaker PIERRE RADISSON crashed through a huge field of ice east of Morrisburg like a knife slicing through whipped cream. It was March 22, and the RADISSON was on her way to assist shipping on the upper Great Lakes an activity that she'd been required to do in past, with the exception of perhaps this spring.
Unlike this winter where except for my backyard, much of the Great Lakes region had very little or no snow at all, and most bodies of water were completely free of ice while in mid January 2019, Lake Superior had lots of it and Erie was over 90% ice covered in places. To makes matter worse, gale force winds blew across the continent in February causing huge ice ridges and banks that I hadn't seen since I was a kid growing up in Port Colborne. Along with the help of their American counterparts the Canadian Coast Guard's "Light" icebreakers GRIFFON and SAMUEL RISLEY which had been busy all winter escorting tankers and other carriers to supply communities with needed cargoes, could not break through either. The cry went out and the mighty PIERRE RADISSON was on its way in.
Today the Welland Canal opened and from what I've seen in Janey Anderson's Facebook ship watcher's posts, who was at Port Coborne this morning, no vessels encountered any ice issues. Such was not the case when the RADISSON arrived at Port Colborne a year ago today. Not only was there ice in the harbour, but not far from the canal entrance breakwalls, she encountered ice ridges two and half to three metres high. It was almost a week before the PIERRE RADISSON and GRIFFON could make safe shipping tracks for the 10 vessels waiting in Port Colborne and at various walls along the canal, to get their season underway.
Photo by Our Midland.ca Local News - April 19, 2019
Meanwhile, the call went out for the light icebreaker MARTHA L. BLACK to assist at Cape Vincent at the St. Lawrence Seaway's Lake Ontario entrance because of ice ridges there, and two more medium icebreakers. Once CCGS AMUNDSEN arrived then followed by CCGS DES GROSEILLIERS soon after, the PIERRE RADISSON continued up through to Thunder BAY and eventually broke out BAIE COMEAU in Midland on April 19th which had been trapped there due to ice ridges on Georgian Bay as well.
Arctic research vessel during the summer CCGS AMUNDSEN breaks ice in winter at Mariatown - April 4, 2019.
CCGS AMUNDSEN (formerly SIR JOHN FRANKLIN) was the second medium icebreaker built in 1978 at Burrard Dry Dock, North Vancouver.

Light icebreaker CCGS MARTHA L. BLACK also no stranger to spring ice operations on the Great Lakes disturbs a flock of Canada Geese while approaching Iroquois Lock on March 27, 2019. 
Dark sky and setting sun as DES GROSEILLIERS passes Morrisburg.
- April 10, 2019.
The 5,775 gross tonne 322'  medium icebreakers are designed for Coast Guard operations in the Arctic Ocean. Their two fixed-pitch propellers are powered by 6 Alco M241F diesel engines that when driving the shafts can create 17,580 shaft horsepower which allows their powerful propulsion system to break ice over a metre thick at a speed of 6 knots. They have a top speed of 16 knots (30 k/h, a range of 15,000 nautical miles and cants at sea for up to 120 days. They have a flight deck with a retractable hanger to house their light Bell 206L helicopter which provides air reconnaissance to identify safer commercial routes.

CCGS DES GROSEILLIERS was built in 1985 at Port Weller Dry Docks in St. Catharines.
CCGS GRIFFON returning home to Prescott from winter ice ops - April 4, 2018
Between late December 2018 and April 2019, six Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers travelled 19,173 kilometres escorting commercial vessels through the ice on the Great Lakes. Canada and the United States shares icebreaking duties between our two nations as needed and combined with U.S. Coast Guard vessels, they assisted 522 ship transits. While light icebreakers CCGS GRIFFON and SAMUEL RISLEY are dedicated to the Great Lakes each year, it sure is nice to know that once old man winter with his arctic blast from over the top returns, at least there's a few extra big or "medium-sized" guns available to make a clear passage regardless of the flag your flying.
CCGS SAMUEL RISLEY lowers a workboat at Johnstown - September 5,2015


  1. Nice photos an article!
    Just a note, there is no such thing as a "Radisson Class" icebreaker.
    The Canadian Coast Guard does not follow the (usually naval) convention of naming classes after the first-built-in-class. Based on the DoT history of building ships almost exclusively in ones and twos, it would be ridiculous for every one or two ships to comprise their own class.
    A bit of history ... up until the 1970s most civilian government ships were "classed" almost exclusively by their primary mission (such as Icebreaker, Buoytender or previously Lighthouse Tender, Hydrographic Survey Vessel, Fisheries Patrol Vessel, etc.).
    By the late 1980s, Transport Canada had introduced a numbered classification system (100-600 for SAR vessels, 700-1300 for buoytenders and icebreakers; this had some odd discrepancies but was a handy shorthand ... many old-timers still refer to the 1100s and 1050s as a quick reference. Accompanying the number was a short description of the capability and the mission e.g. 1300 Heavy Gulf Icebreaker, 1200 Medium Gulf/River Icebreaker, 1100 Major Navaids Tender / Light Icebreaker, 1050 Medium Navaids Tender / Light Icebreaker, 1000 Medium Navaids Tender / Ice Stregthened, 900 Small Navaids Tender / Ice-Strengthened, etc.
    In 1995 the CCG transferred from Transport to Fisheries and Oceans, and absorbed the DFO Science fleet and the Fisheries fleet, with their dozens of ships combined. Instead of rebooting the numbering system, the new combined CCG Fleet reverted to classing by primary mission and relative capability. So the former 1200s became Medium Icebreakers, the former 1100s (such as the Griffon) became a High Endurance Multi-Task Vessels (HEMTV) and the 1050s (the Samuel Risley and the Earl Grey) became Medium Endurance Multi Task Vessels (MEMTV), and so on.
    Notice that at no time has a class been named for the first built example, dating back to Confederation (actually several years prior to 1867).

    1. I will definitely save your comment for future references. Though I have multiple sources that says the sisters are Pierre Radisson-class, I have removed any references to it in my blogpost. Below is a link to my revised post. Though it is not my only source, I hope one day someone at CCG corrects the information that’s provided on the internet, namely Wikipedia. I like photographing ships and then tell a story of my rendezvous and provide a backgrounder about the ship. It’s not a revenue source but something I like doing and people, over 350 thousand of them worldwide seems to like what I’m saying. However there’s no value to what I’m doing if the information is wrong. Anyhow thanks for the input. I’m off to Prescott to get a few photos of the High Endurance Multi Tasked Vessel GRIFFON. Take care, Carl

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