Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
The nation’s aging ice-breaker fleet is breaking down. The US Coast Guard has three ice-breakers, and two of them are now down for repairs. Today the Coast Guard announced that the ice-breaker Polar Sea will not be making its planned summer trip to the arctic because its engines are at risk of failing.
The Polar Sea is one of two heavy Coast Guard ice-breakers. The other one – the Polar Star – was already under repair, and won’t be ready for another two years. That leaves just one US ice-breaking vessel – the larger but less powerful cutter, the Healy, which is now plying the ice of the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas on a scientific mission.
The Polar Sea was a key part of the Coast Guard’s push to increase its arctic presence due to diminishing sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. Last year, the vessel supported a number of safety drills and medical and other missions in coastal communities along the arctic shore, in an operation called Arctic Crossroads. It was supposed to do the same sort of thing this year, and also conduct oil spill response drills.
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