Ships cut through ice and create wave of business on the Great Lakes

The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, backs down toward the motor vessel Manitowoc in the vicinity of Whitefish Bay in order to use directional wash from the Azipods to break the ice plug that had developed off her bow, March 26, 2013.

The Coast Guard is keeping ice at bay and helping kick off the Great Lakes shipping season.

Ice cutters from Cheboygan, Duluth, Minn. and Canada, are helping ships make their way through the icy St. Mary's River.

The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie opened for the 2013 Great Lakes Shipping Season Monday. Soo lockmaster Bill Campbell said the Paul R. Tregurtha was the first ship to enter the Poe Lock at 12:01 a.m. Monday headed from Sturgeon Bay, Wis., to Duluth, Minn.

Six vessels passed through the Poe Lock by 9 a.m. Monday.

The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, a 240-foot icebreaker homeported in Cheboygan, along with Coast Guard Cutter Alder, a 225-foot buoy tender with ice-breaking capabilities homeported in Duluth, Minn., and the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Samuel Risley worked together to keep vessels moving.

The locks were closed on Jan. 15 and underwent routine repairs and maintenance during the winter shutdown. The MacArthur Lock beside the Poe Lock will continue maintenance for several weeks.

Freighters hauling coal, iron ore, grain and other materials pass through the locks each year.

You can see a live view of the Soo Locks by clicking here.