The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star breaks ice in McMurdo Sound near Antarctica on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. U.S. Coast Guard Photo
The U.S. Navy, in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard, has released a request for proposal for the advance procurement and detail design work for the USCG’s first new heavy polar icebreaker in more than 40 years.
The RFP, which was issued March 2, also includes options for the detail design and construction (DD&C) of up two three heavy polar icebreakers.
A single contract resulting from the RFP is expected to be awarded in 2019. Delivery of the icebreaker is not expected until 2023, based on current estimates.
“Today’s action marks a major milestone in the collective efforts by the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy to deliver a new fleet of Polar Icebreakers,” said Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Paul Zukunft. “These multi-mission vessels are key components of our national strategy to advance U.S. interests and to keep pace with the growing volume of commercial activities in the Polar Regions. New heavy Polar Icebreakers are the most effective and efficient way of meeting our current and anticipated mission demands in these critical regions, and I’m ecstatic that we are moving smartly to deliver these national assets to the U.S. Coast Guard fleet.”
The 399-foot USCGC Polar Star, built more than 40 years ago, is currently the only operational heavy icebreaker in the U.S. fleet. With a crew of nearly 150 people, it weighs 13,500 tons and uses 75,000 horsepower to break ice up to 21 feet thick. Earlier this year, the icebreaker experienced both flooding and engine failure during its annual icebreaking mission to Antarctica, but luckily both issues were able to be resolved by the vessel’s crew and without the need of additional assistance.
The Coast Guard also has the 420-foot medium icebreaker USCGC Healy, which commissioned in 2000. A second heavy icebreaker, USCGC Polar Sea, was placed in commissioned, inactive status by the Coast Guard in 2011 and the service is evaluating options to reactivate the ship.
The Coast Guard expects the Polar Star to remain in service through approximately 2020 to 2023.
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