ST. IGNACE, MI - A U.S. Coast Guard cutter that was en route to the Straits of Mackinac to help free five ships trapped in ice there is now limping back to port after suffering an engine failure, the military said.
Is it time to privatize icebreaking on the Great Lakes?
There is no justification for private finance of government projects. One thing the state can do better than the private sector is borrow cheaply. Private finance is the result of daft accounting rules described by Laurie MacFarlane rather than of economic rationality.
Private provision, however, is another matter. In principle, competitive tendering by private firms could bid down the cost to the tax-payer of government services.
But there’s a problem here. As Simon says, companies that win tenders by bidding low have an incentive to cut quality. The question is: is it possible to stop this happening?
- Worth reading with regards to privatization.
If anything, it could make moving winter navigation-dependent industry to the northern coast more attractive…
Within the lakes themselves I could see the benefit for having one or two purpose-built commercial icebreakers to assist vessel traffic, but unless we have a year like this when the ice comes on fast and is sustained by extended cold weather, I doubt any company could regularly station assets in the lakes and make a dollar from it.
The last several years of winter sailing have required relatively little USCG/CCG cutter assistance, but this year has gone from “none needed” to “everybody’s beset, come help” in an extremely short period of time. Add to that there have been two snap thaws which have caused significant flooding and ice jamming, and both the US & Canadian Coast Guard have been running pretty much 24/7 in heavy ice conditions for a month straight.
Furthermore, the Soo Locks annual closure essentially removes the bulk of traffic from the lakes as the long haul ore and coal trade out of head of lakes is no longer possible. Whats left are a handful of salt boats and fuel tankers, primarily Canadian, which grind through the winter and pose much less of a requirement on the USCG/CCG fleet.