Tag Archives: new coast guard icebreaker

Never fear, the politicians are here, and have a cup of iced pork

Imagine her with a red hull and white stripe...Aiviq, 360′8″ Ice Class Anchor Handler. Photo by ECO

Imagine her with a red hull and white stripe…Aiviq, 360′8″ Ice Class Anchor Handler. Photo by ECO

Let’s face it: the U.S. Coast Guard has an icebreaker crisis that has been brewing since the 1970s. From WWII through the Ford Administration, the U.S. had the largest military ice-breaking fleet in the world. Then came the inevitable retirement of a host of 8 aging breakers, built for the Navy and armed like destroyers, which were to be replaced by four new 399-foot Polar-class ships.

Well, those four became only two as a result of 1970s budget crisis and they linger on as broken down occasionally functional vessels. Icebreakers take a beating.

Instead of building new heavy icebreakers to military spec, one Congressman wants the Coasties to buy the 12,000-ton Aiviq, an American ice-hardened anchor handling tug supply vessel owned by Edison Chouest Offshore.

Completed in 2012, the commercial vessel is pretty sweet, but in the end had trouble in Alaska trying to do its thing to the point that the cutter USCGC Alex Haley, a medium icebreaker, had to step in as a safety net.

Now, with Shell’s decision to halt Arctic oil exploration, the owners want to sell the gently used $200 million vessel to Uncle Sam for $150 million and a Republican (who has gotten some pretty big contributions from those involved with the ship) is all about it for the Coast Guard– even though the ship isn’t really an icebreaker, isn’t built to military specs, and failed in its only deployment.

“It’s my belief that the Coast Guard would benefit greatly from the initiative taken by Congress to provide funding—without drawing from existing Coast Guard priorities—to minimize the vessel gap, by leasing a medium icebreaker,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, pimping the Aiviq.

Coast Guard Adm. Charles Michel isn’t impressed and said of the vessel, “This is not a pick-up game for the Coast Guard. We have very specific requirements for our vessels, including international law requirements for assertion of things like navigation rights. … This vessel does not just break ice …”

However, money talks, so there’s that.

Meanwhile, the Duffel Blog nails it:

Coast Guard patches up broke down icebreaker with surfboard repair kit

The nation who at one time had the world’s largest and best-equipped icebreaker fleet has for years been suffering in that department. So much so that the only true heavy breakers we have under U.S. flag, the 399-foot USCGC Polar Star and Polar Sea, are among the oldest ships in the Coast Guard (who is known for having “veteran” platforms) and are uber-cranky.

The 399-foot Polar Star. Top of the line in icebreakers 1977-2010. However, note no visable weapons. For scientific missions these are not needed. However for soverignty missions, are a must.

The 399-foot Polar Star. Top of the line in icebreakers in 1977

The crew of the recently returned to duty cutter Polar Star responded to four general emergencies during their most recent deployment to Antarctica. A “general emergency” is a situation in which the crew and the cutter are in serious danger if the not remedied quickly. The crew experienced three fires and one major lube oil leak, which can quickly ignite into fire.

One of which required an out-of-the-box fix.

Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin Oakes, an electrician’s mate aboard the Polar Star, used a surfboard repair kit to fix one of the cutter’s generators after the system shorted out and began smoking. The crew had lost power to one of their propellers en route to Antarctica leaving them with reduced power Dec. 13. The crew could not get specially designed replacement parts for the 40-year-old generator in time for the crew to execute their mission to Antarctica; however, with a little online research and brainstorming, Oakes used one of his shipmate’s surfboard repair kits to fabricate a new replacement part allowing the Polar Star’s crew to continue their mission.

More here

Congress finally approved both a polar and another Great Lakes icebreaker

If you have read this insipid blog long enough you know that I am a fan of icebreakers (the ships, not the chat-up)  and bemoaned the long-running lack of such vessels in U.S. maritime service.

Well it seems Congress is finally doing something about it.

"A Coast Guard Icebreaker  on patrol in the Antarctic, moves through the ice floe." WAGB Southwind by Thomas Carr (ID# 87112) USCG Image. (Click to bigup, very nice image)

“A Coast Guard Icebreaker on patrol in the Antarctic, moves through the ice floe.” WAGB Southwind by Thomas Carr (ID# 87112) USCG Image. (Click to bigup, very nice image)

The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015  passed by voice vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, Feb. 1, approving a bill the Senate passed in December. It now moves to President Barack Obama’s desk for a signature.

As part of the $1.9 billion included with the bill is money for a new polar icebreaker and one for the Great Lakes.

“This bipartisan bill authorizes the Coast Guard for two years and strengthens its ability to recapitalize an aging fleet of cutters and aircraft that are decades past their prime,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California.

Now hold your breath and wait for the ships to pop out, which may be a totally different thing altogether.