Giving the harbor a break: SPAR embarks on annual mission

Coast Guard Cutter SPAR embarks on annual mission
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 9:46 AM CST
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DULUTH, MN-- It is a sure sign of spring in the Northland.

Out on the Duluth and Superior harbor, the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR has been out and about in her inaugural year of breaking ice in Duluth after arriving in the Twin Ports last march.

The crew of 48 on the 225-foot buoy tender has been busy over the last week, breaking ice in the shipping channels up and down the Duluth Superior harbor.

The Commanding Officer of the SPAR, Lieutenant Commander Joel Wright, says breaking ice performs a critical role for the economy not only of the Northland but across the Nation.

“A large part of the U.S. economy, anything made out of steel in the U.S. often comes from the taconite that originates here and Duluth and the Iron Range, and if that stops, a large part of the U.S. economy is impacted,” said Wright.

While the SPAR works to break the ice ahead of the Soo Locks opening on March 25th, Wright said the crew is working on this mission precisely and methodically.

While the SPAR’s thick hull makes it possible to break through 36″ of ice, her primary role is as a buoy Tender, something she’ll start to do as the weather warms up. Something Wright says is nearly equally important in keeping the Great Lakes safe for all.

“At some point in the spring, we will shift from ice breaking to aids to navigation and getting all the buoys out in a timely manner because that helps them too,” said Wright.

Regardless of the task, Wright said the team keeps the ship afloat.

“It is the best group of young men and women that are serving this country. They care about their job. They love this area. They love the people here. And they are here to do the best,” said Wright.