Trump Budget Includes Funding Request for New Heavy Polar Icebreaker
The Department of Homeland Security’s fiscal year 2019 proposed budget requests that Congress appropriate $750 million to continue efforts to award a contract for detail design and construction to maintain scheduled delivery of a new heavy polar icebreaker in 2023. That part of an overall $11.6 billion request for the US Coast Guard.
The funding request for the icebreaker provides design, materials, construction, program management, feasibility studies, cybersecurity planning, and more for the vessel.
“This is a major development, one on which the Coast Guard has been working for years,” said Dennis Bryant, a consultant and maritime law expert. “The ball is now passed to Congress.”
The Polar Star is the sole active heavy icebreaker in the US fleet and has been in operation for over 40 years. The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Sea was taken out of service in 2010.
Enhanced icebreaking capabilities are considered to be a national security imperative as well as important for maintaining shipping lanes through the Arctic region. Melting Arctic ice is opening the potential for regular northern shipping routes. A 2010 study identified the need for three heavy and three medium icebreakers to provide sufficient capability to support US national interests in the polar regions.
A year ago, the Coast Guard awarded $20 million in contracts to five shipyards for design studies that will be used by Coast Guard and US Navy personnel to refine and validate heavy polar icebreaker system specifications. The current FY 2019 request would enable the continuation of those efforts.
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