Friday, April 26, 2019

The United States Has Finally Ordered ONE New Icebreaker

As noted in the introduction to March 2018's "U.S. Navy Releases Proposal Request for Coast Guard’s New Heavy Polar Icebreaker":
If the U.S. were serious the request-for-proposal would be for six ships and they would have been started five to ten years ago.
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 American icebreaking fleet consists of three ships, the newest being the USCG Healy, a big boat but only a medium icebreaker, laid down in 1996, and two late '70's heavies, Polar Sea and Polar Star, the former now being cannibalized for parts and the latter falling apart.*

Here's the latest from gCaptain, April, 24:
VT Halter Marine Wins $745 Million Icebreaker Contract 
Yesterday, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy awarded VT Halter Marine Inc., Pascagoula, Mississippi, a contract for the Detail Design and Construction of the Coast Guard’s lead Polar Security Cutter (PSC).

The initial award is valued at $745.9 million and supports non-recurring engineering and detail design of the PSC class as well as procurement of long lead-time materials and construction of the first ship.  The contract also includes options for the construction of two additional PSCs.  If all options are exercised, the total contract value is $1.9 billion.

“The Polar Security Cutter is key to our nation’s presence in the polar regions,” said Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant of the Coast Guard. “With the strong support of both the Trump Administration and the United States Congress, this contract award marks an important step towards building the nation’s full complement of six polar icebreakers to meet the unique mission demands that have emerged from increased commerce, tourism, research, and international activities in the Arctic and Antarctic.”

The announcement comes after decades of budget cuts, expanded mission requirements (e.g. the war on terrorism) and a lack of US Navy support for icebreaker funding left the USCG struggling to meet the nation’s most basic needs in the Arctic. The 42 year old Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star is currently the United States’ only operational heavy icebreaker and is suffering from age and a lack of funding. In January the Polar Star, during her annual resupply mission to McMurdo Station in Antarctica, experienced multiple mechanical issues, including ship-wide power outages, all against the backdrop of the partial government shutdown that left Coast Guard personnel temporarily without pay.....MORE
*Previously on the travels and travails of the Polar Star:
March 2019 
An Account of The Voyage Of The Icebreaker USCG Polar Star (It's bad)
January 2019
The Only U.S. Heavy Icebreaker Suffers MULTIPLE Mechanical Problems On Voyage To Antarctica
December 2018
"US Coast Guard Turns Down Arctic Exercise Because 40-year-old Icebreaker Might Break Down And Would Require Russian Help"
September 2018
U.S. Watchdog Warns The Coast Guard To Get Real About Its Plans To Field Critical New Icebreakers

Meanwhile in June 2018 a non-Arctic nation: "China opens bids for first nuclear-powered icebreaker"
And March 2019: "China to Use First Atomic Icebreaker as Test for Future Nuclear Aircraft Carriers":
From High North News:
The country’s first atomic icebreaker will rival Russia’s largest nuclear icebreakers in size. China will become only the second country to operate such a vessel and it will pave the way for the country’s first nuclear aircraft carriers.