Ice Patrol: 1,000 Icebergs Entered Lanes This Year

File image courtesy USCG

By The Maritime Executive 12-15-2017 08:16:49

The U.S. Coast Guard's International Ice Patrol said Thursday that 2017 was the fourth "extreme" season in a row for icebergs in the North Atlantic, with 1,008 bergs tallied in the shipping lanes.

At the Patrol's annual meeting in New London, Connecticut, Cmdr. Kristen Serumgard said that the count was high due to powerful storms and to the retreat of Greenland's glaciers, which  both contributed to more calving events. The count was much higher than last year's extreme season, which saw 687 icebergs drift south into the lanes. 2017 didn't make the top 10, though: it was only the 19th most severe season since 1900. The Canadian Ice Service told AP that it expects a normal ice year in 2018, with only 500 icebergs drifting into hazardous territory for shipping.

The Ice Patrol was founded in 1913 in the wake of the sinking of the Titanic, and it has conducted its survey every year since (except for World War I and World War II). No vessel has ever reported the loss of life or property due to contact with an iceberg outside of the warning limits the IIP advertises near the Grand Banks – a perfect safety record. However, many ships have collided with icebergs within the warning area limits, illustrating the continued hazards of ice navigation despite modern advancements. 

When the service began operations, the Ice Patrol's cutters would find the southeasternmost iceberg and follow along with it until it melted, broadcasting warnings to shipping of the position of the threat. It continued to use this simple method until after World War II, when it switched to aerial reconnaissance. Today, the Patrol collects information with long range HC-130J patrol aircraft and with reports from shipping, and it increasingly incorporates satellite data into its analyses.