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CLEVELAND -- This should be a busy time for the Neah Bay and Morro Bay. The sister ship ice cutters are both assigned to Coast Guard operations in Cleveland.

But for now they are on ice, not cutting it.

It's because they are idled in port for repairs of repairs.

They've been sidelined for several weeks. There's been a recurring problem with the same part on both craft, a propulsion system component. They've been fixed and repaired and fixed and repaired.

Now the manufacturer is sending repair crews.

Petty Officer Third Class Lauren Laughlin said there have not been any emergencies or ice-cutting needs that have gone untended because the cutters are down.

The Coast Guard has 9 cutters assigned to the Great Lakes and cutters from Canada or private businesses fill in if need be under reciprocal agreements.

The hope is the repairs will be made in time to reactivate both craft next week.

The new shipping season starts March 28 and the cutters will be very busy around mid-March getting ready for that.

The thaw has come at just the right time to minimize the impact of the cutters being down.

The Morro Bay was scheduled to be idle now for routine maintenance.

How long will the ice-cutting season last in this very brutal winter?

Laughlin said, "We're not sure what Mother Nature is dealing out for us this winter."

But the crews of both cutters are ready to get back in the game.

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