China, a non-polar nation already has a small fleet of light and medium icebreakers and is rumored to have plans for a new medium with a 3-3.5 meter-thick-ice capability as a stepping-stone to a couple heavy icebreakers by the mid-to-late 2020's. They are serious about their Polar Silk Road.*
The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star breaks ice in McMurdo Sound near Antarctica on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. U.S. Coast Guard Photo
The U.S. Navy, in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard, has released a request for proposal for the advance procurement and detail design work for the USCG’s first new heavy polar icebreaker in more than 40 years.*A month ago Bloomberg told us not to sweat it:
The RFP, which was issued March 2, also includes options for the detail design and construction (DD&C) of up to three heavy polar icebreakers.
A single contract resulting from the RFP is expected to be awarded in 2019. Delivery of the icebreaker is not expected until 2023, based on current estimates.
“Today’s action marks a major milestone in the collective efforts by the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy to deliver a new fleet of Polar Icebreakers,” said Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Paul Zukunft. “These multi-mission vessels are key components of our national strategy to advance U.S. interests and to keep pace with the growing volume of commercial activities in the Polar Regions. New heavy Polar Icebreakers are the most effective and efficient way of meeting our current and anticipated mission demands in these critical regions, and I’m ecstatic that we are moving smartly to deliver these national assets to the U.S. Coast Guard fleet.”
The 399-foot USCGC Polar Star, built more than 40 years ago, is currently the only operational heavy icebreaker in the U.S. fleet....MORE
"Don't Fear China's Arctic Takeover"
On the other hand, if you read Xinhua's translation of January's "Full text: China's Arctic Policy" you'll note they call themselves a ‘Near-Arctic state’.
This is to counter people like me using the 'non-polar' or 'non-Arctic' phrasing.
Additionally China is couching their interest in terms of research:
States from outside the Arctic region do not have territorial sovereignty in the Arctic, but they do have rights in respect of scientific research, navigation, overflight, fishing, laying of submarine cables and pipelines in the high seas and other relevant sea areas in the Arctic Ocean, and rights to resource exploration and exploitation in the Area, pursuant to treaties such as UNCLOS and general international law. In addition, Contracting Parties to the Spitsbergen Treaty enjoy the liberty of access and entry to certain areas of the Arctic, the right under conditions of equality and, in accordance with law, to the exercise and practice of scientific research, production and commercial activities such as hunting, fishing, and mining in these areas....and is dedicating 1100 square feet of space on the latest planned icebreaker to laboratories.
For some reason I'm reminded of the time the Chinese bought their first aircraft carrier from Ukraine.
The Ukrainians wouldn't sell if the big boat were going to be used for military purposes.
So the Chinese said "Ahhh...casino"
"That's it, we're only going to use it as a floating casino, Chinese people like to gamble, come on lucky 4, that's the ticket!"
Here's the Casino:
As can be seen, gamblers are able to fly right in for the action, Pai Gow to starboard, baccarat to port.
I can't wait to see what's cookin' in the icebreaker laboratories.
Even "near-equatorial" Singapore wants to get into the act, albeit by way of the Russian icebreakers.
I suppose it's only a matter of time before right-on-the-equator Brazil or Gabon declare themselves "next-to-near arctic states"
It's a small world after all.