The US Department of Homeland Security on February 21 granted the US Coast Guard an approval to proceed to the next step of its polar icebreaker program.
The department’s approval allows the integrated program office, which includes Navy and Coast Guard personnel, to proceed with a planned release of a request for proposal (RFP) for detail design and construction of a lead heavy polar icebreaker.
A draft RFP was released last October. The delivery target for the first new heavy polar icebreaker is 2023.
The Coast Guard’s operational polar icebreaking fleet currently includes one heavy icebreaker, USCGC Polar Star, and one medium icebreaker, USCGC Healy. A second heavy icebreaker, USCGC Polar Sea, is in inactive status.
The Coast Guard requires at least three new heavy icebreakers to ensure continued access to both polar regions and support the country’s economic, commercial, maritime and national security needs.
Polar Star underwent a three-year reactivation and returned to operations in late 2013. Since then, Polar Star has completed three operation Deep Freeze deployments to resupply McMurdo Station in Antarctica. The Coast Guard expects Polar Star to remain in service through approximately 2020 to 2023.
The Coast Guard on Feb. 22, 2017, awarded five firm fixed-price contracts for heavy polar icebreaker design studies and analysis. The objective of the studies is to identify design and systems approaches to reduce acquisition cost and production timelines.
The US and Canadian governments on Feb. 7, 2017, established a partnership that will enable the US Coast Guard heavy polar icebreaker acquisition program to test and validate potential heavy polar icebreaker design models at Canada’s National Research Council in St John’s, Newfoundland.