Does sea ice have an impact on my crossing?

by Captain Otto Gates

Sea ice is a normal operational parameter experienced during the winter months in the Cabot Strait. While the severity and presence of sea ice will change from year to year due to environmental conditions, Marine Atlantic is always prepared for any potential impacts that heavy sea ice can have on our vessels and schedule.

All of Marine Atlantic’s vessels are ice-class which means they are built to operate in severe ice conditions. Our fleet can maneuver well in ice and our Captains and crew are well-trained and experienced in navigating through ice conditions.

There are many factors to consider when evaluating whether ice conditions could impact our schedule including the type of ice, thickness and distance of water that is covered.  Ice conditions are constantly changing and wind direction and speeds can help improve ice conditions or push it closer together making it more difficult for navigation purposes. We are constantly monitoring ice conditions in the Cabot Strait and receive daily ice map updates from Environment Canada.   From this information, our Captains plan their daily routes.

If you are travelling with us during the winter months and experience ice conditions, you will likely hear the sound of the vessel moving through ice. Depending on the thickness of the ice, it may sound like a crunching noise and is a normal part of our operations.

Should ice become a factor, we pay a fee to the Canadian Coast Guard to ensure our service is a priority in the event we require ice-breaking activities.

For more information on sea ice conditions, how ice is formed, where it is located and other additional details, a full breakdown can be found on Environment Canada’s website,