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Two freighters freed from icy St. Marys River

Two freighters freed from icy St. Marys River

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- After being stuck in the ice for hours, two freighters have been freed in the St. Marys River and the shipping lane has been reopened.

You could hear the ice crackle all the way to the shoreline as the Canadian Coast Guard Cutter Samuel Risley made its way towards the thousand-foot freighter Edgar B. Speer.

The freighter had been stuck in the ice near Neebish Island since around 4 a.m. Thursday.

Almost 12 hours later, it was freed.

Further up the river another freighter, the Walter J. McCarthy, was stuck since Wednesday night and was broken loose by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay.

“Typically these cutters go out there, and they can respond within 12 to 24 hours depending on where they’re responding from," said Lt. Sean Murphy from the U.S. Coast Guard. "They go out and they circle the ships that are in the ice and they ensure that they break up the ice to free the ship.”

With freighters stuck in the ice going up-bound and down-bound, ship traffic had to be stopped on the river.

“That means that they are restricting the waterway to seven vessels that are currently waiting to go up-bound the river and four vessels that are currently waiting to go down-bound the river," Murphy said.

Many of those ships carry iron ore and other important goods that fuel the economy, making it that much more important to keep the river moving.

“In terms of commerce, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Canadian Coast Guard, we help facilitate one billion dollars of cargo to be moved up and down the river every winter," Murphy said.

The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards share responsibility for keeping the St. Marys River clear during the winter.

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