Marine Atlantic says an icebreaker is on its way after two of its ferries carrying hundreds of passengers have been slowed by extreme ice conditions since Wednesday evening in the Cabot Strait.
The MV Blue Puttees on its way to North Sydney, N.S., has about 350 passengers on board, while the MV Highlanders en route to Port aux Basques, N.L., is carrying about 450 people.
Marine Atlantic spokesman Darrell Mercer said the MV Highlanders managed to move free of ice on Thursday morning and was making progress.
But the Crown corporation says the MV Blue Puttees sits in the thickest ice about six kilometres from port in North Sydney.
Mercer said the Blue Puttees managed to move a few kilometres Thursday morning before it became trapped by ice.
Marine Atlantic expects a coast guard icebeaker to arrive in the area at about 8:30 p.m. Newfoundland time.
In the meantime, Mercer said another ferry — the Atlantic Vision — scheduled to leave North Sydney has icebreaking capabilities and will try to free the MV Blue Puttees during its trip to Port aux Basques.
"It will help to try loosen some of that ice so the Blue Puttees will be able to get in the path the Atlantic Vision has created for it," he said.
Mercer said the Blue Puttees left Port aux Basques at 11:45 a.m. local time Wednesday and hit ice about 15 hours later off the northern coast of Cape Breton. Passengers have been on the ferry for more than 24 hours.
The ferry has an ample supply of food and fuel and the captain updates the passengers regularly by intercom and briefings in the common room, he said.
Marine Atlantic expects ferry crossings to be affected by the ice for the next 48 hours.