President Trump Calls for Review of Nation’s Polar Icebreaker Program

Mike Schuler
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June 11, 2020

An artist illustration of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Polar Security Cutter. VT Halter Marine has been hired to design and construct up to three PSCs. Image courtesy VT Halter Marine

President Trump has called on various federal agencies to review options for achieving a fully-operartional polar security icebreaking fleet by 2029.

President Trump ordered the review in a memo released Wednesday by the White House.

“To help protect our national interests in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and to retain a strong Arctic security presence alongside our allies and partners, the United States requires a ready, capable, and available fleet of polar security icebreakers that is operationally tested and fully deployable by Fiscal Year 2029,” the memo stated.

The memo also contains an order to the Commandant of the Coast Guard to “study of the comparative operational and fiscal benefits and risks of a polar security icebreaking fleet mix that consists of at least three heavy polar-class security cutters (PSC) that are appropriately outfitted,” it said. The study is requested to be completed in 60 days.

The review is to include options for leasing icebreakers from partner nations as a near- to mid-term strategy. It also requests that the Secretary of State “identify partner nations with proven foreign shipbuilding capability and expertise in icebreaker construction” prior to any bid solicitation.

The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy are currently in the midst of a historic Polar Security Cutter Program meant to replace the Coast Guard’s aging fleet of icebreakers. In May 2019, VT Halter Marine named as the prime contractor for the first PSC. The contract includes two options which, if exercised, would bring the total amount to approximately $1.9 billion.

The first ship is scheduled for delivery in 2024, followed by the second in 2025, and the last delivering in early 2027.

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