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Scrapping of Polar Sea Icebreaker Halted


June 15, 2012

(SitNews) WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the scrapping of the Polar Sea scheduled to beign within days, United States Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) have reached an agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard to postpone the scrapping of the Polar Sea through the end of 2012. The agreement was reached during a meeting of the Senators and the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Robert Papp, Jr.

The icebreaker, based in Seattle, had been scheduled to be dry-docked and taken apart beginning Monday. This process would have ripped out the vessel’s hubs and sealed off major portions of the vessel – a key step toward final destruction of the icebreaker.

Scrapping Polar Sea would leave the United States with only one operational icebreaker, the Healy, which was designed primarily as a scientific research vessel and only has medium icebreaking capability. The second heavy duty icebreaker, Polar Star, is currently in Seattle being refitted after years of receiving routine maintenance in ‘caretaker’ status.

“As an Arctic Nation, we need to proceed intelligently as opportunities open up in our northern waters,” said Senator Murkowski. “Dismantling critical components of the Polar Sea without a complete plan for its replacement – a year before Polar Star will be back in the water – would not be the best course of action. While this may only be a six month respite for the Polar Sea, I will use this period to work through my role on the Appropriations Committee to make America’s icebreaking capacity a top priority.”

“The Coast Guard has listened to our call to postpone the dry docking of the Polar Sea so we can continue to explore the most cost-effective measures to ensure the United States has adequate icebreaking capabilities,” said Senator Begich. “Rebuilding this valuable cutter would save taxpayer dollars, create jobs, and increase our ability to operate in the Arctic, and I look forward to continuing to discuss next steps in revitalizing the Polar Sea.”

“We are glad the Coast Guard has agreed to postpone the scrapping of this valuable icebreaker,” said Cantwell. “This is good news for Washington shipbuilding jobs and for America’s icebreaking capability. The Polar Sea’s hull is still in sound condition. Postponing its scrapping allows the Administration and Congress more time to consider all options for fulfilling the nation’s critical icebreaking missions.”

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) has also been working to keep the Polar Sea icebreaker from being scapped.

To prevent one third of our nation’s icebreaking fleet from being scrapped, Alaskan Congressman Don Young last week successfully attached an amendment to H.R. 5887, the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012. The aim of Rep. Young’s amendment is to gauge private sector interest in operating an icebreaker and directs the Coast Guard to also assess any interest the private sector would have in buying or leasing the USCGC Polar Sea.

Young's amendment builds on a provision already contained in the underlying bill that requires the Coast Guard to complete an assessment and report back to Congress on what the cost would be to refurbish and get the Polar Sea back into service. 

“I have said it before and I’ll say it again – our icebreaking capabilities are woefully inadequate,” said Rep. Young. “The race for the Arctic and its resources has begun and we need to ensure all capable icebreakers are in service. The Coast Guard must explore all possibilities; that means making sure we’re not completely scrapping an icebreaker that the private sector has shown interest in." 

“It’s time to get creative," said Young, "whether it’s leasing or owning icebreakers, or even working with the private sector, we must work harder to improve our icebreaking capability.”   

H.R. 5887 passed the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week and was sent to the full House for a vote.


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Sources of News: 

Office of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Office of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich

Office of Rep. Don Young


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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