The US Senate has approved $655 million dedicated to the design and construction of a new heavy polar security cutter in an appropriations package last week.
Also included in the funding are $20 million to acquire long lead-time materials for a second polar security cutter, and $400 million for offshore patrol cutters and $340 million for fast response cutters, six of which will be based in Alaska.
Additionally, the bill provides $53 million for shore-side infrastructure facilities in Alaska to support the new cutters, with $22 million going to Kodiak and $31 million to Seward.
“After years of advocating for the federal government to take America’s role as an Arctic nation seriously, we have finally secured substantial resources for our country to strengthen its position in the region with a brand-new icebreaker,” US senator Dan Sullivan said welcoming the decision.
The Coast Guard’s operational polar icebreaking fleet currently includes one heavy icebreaker, USCGC Polar Star, and one medium icebreaker, USCGC Healy. A second heavy icebreaker, USCGC Polar Sea, is in inactive status.
The Coast Guard requires at least three new heavy icebreakers to ensure continued access to both polar regions and support the country’s economic, commercial, maritime and national security needs.
The US and Canadian governments on Feb. 7, 2017, established a partnership that will enable the US Coast Guard heavy polar icebreaker acquisition program to test and validate potential heavy polar icebreaker design models at Canada’s National Research Council in St John’s, Newfoundland.