By Andrew Keller, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
BAY CITY, MI (WNEM) -
As the Coast Guard works to keep waterways clear of thick ice for maritime commerce, one local businessman said he believes the Coast Guard is helping drive him out of business.
The ice around the docked "Gregory Busch" tugboat is intact. And Greg Busch, the tug's captain, said that shouldn't be the case. In the winter his boat doubles as an icebreaker.
Busch claims ice-breaking work done in the Saginaw Bay Friday by the Coast Guard could have and should have been work for his guys.
"We shouldn't have to compete with a free service done by the government," said Busch.
The Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock led the freighter "Alpena" from the Saginaw Bay to the Saginaw River Friday. Work done while Busch, who says he's been breaking ice for 40 years, sat and watched. He claims Friday's work could have been a substantial part of his winter income, an income that has been struggling the past couple of years.
"Currently, I have three employees laid off, and it's been a slow year for us economically," said Busch.
TV5 called the Coast Guard to figure out what procedures they follow pertaining to ice-breaking.
"The Coast Guard or Canadian Coast Guard resources will always be used to break 'tier 1' or 'tier 2' waterways, and what that means is the major waterways and in today's story, we're talking about Saginaw Bay," said Coast Guard Lt. Justin Westmiller with the Sector Detroit Public Affairs Department.
Westmiller said once the ship makes it to the so-called 'tier 3' waterway, in this case the freighter making it to the mouth of the Saginaw River, the work is typically handed off to private companies. But Westmiller said in this case, the captain of the freighter told the Coast Guard he no longer needed ice-breaking assistance.
"The Coast Guard is always willing to turn over business to commercial entities as long as it's safe to do so and it's prudent to do so," said Westmiller.
But still, Busch said he thinks this policy needs to be reviewed.
"The American taxpayers are footing the bill for the ice-breaking while an American company is basically sitting idol at the dock and was denied the opportunity to do the business," said Busch.
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