Julie Gascon, Assistant Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard Central and Arctic Region and Rear Adm. Joanna Nunan, commander of the United States Coast Guard Ninth District, sign a renewed memorandum of understanding on icebreaking services for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. (U.S. Coast Guard)

The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards are strengthening their collaboration on ice breaking in the Great Lakes.

The agencies can now temporarily exchange personnel on ice breaking ships, to allow service men and women to learn each other’s procedures, since they often cooperate in shared waters and on joint missions, according to a U.S. Coast Guard news release.

This winter, Canadian crew members cleared shipping routes to Erie, Pennylvania, Conneaut and Toledo, while Americans worked in Thunder Bay, Port Colborne and Nanticoke, Ontario. The countries also worked together to break up ice jams that posed a high risk of flooding for communities on the St. Clair River.

Rear Admiral Joanna Nuna, commander of the U.S. Guard’s Ninth District, signed a memorandum of understanding in Cleveland Jan. 18 with Julie Gascon, assistant commission of the Canadian Guard’s central and arctic region.

“Our partnership with the Canadian Coast Guard is crucial for our mutual success on the Great Lakes and surrounding waterways,” Nunan said in the release. “As the beginning of this winter’s severe conditions have demonstrated, we need to work together to provide seamless service to our communities and keep commerce flowing.”

“With our partners at the United States Coast Guard we are truly one team supporting the safe, economical and efficient movement of ships in the heart of North America,” said Gascon. “Our updated Memorandum of Understanding allows us to better share information, equipment and personnel between countries. By working together we ensure scheduled vessel traffic can move through the shipping channels and into and out of community harbors.”

Similar U.S.-Canadian partnerships exist for search and rescue, environmental response, maritime security and marine communications and traffic services, along the world’s longest undefended border.