U.S. Coast Guard recently announced that Seattle, WA will be home to the nation’s newest Polar Security Cutters
Currently only one heavy icebreaker in operation; Senator Murray has been a longtime champion for strengthened federal funding to replace heavy icebreaker fleet
Senator Murray: “Our heavy icebreakers play a key role in our nation’s security and scientific research capabilities, and I’m proud to see Washington state continue our tradition of homeporting these important vessels”
ICYMI—MORE from Senator Murray in Crosscut: “We are an Arctic nation and Washington state, with our rich maritime industry and our proximate position to the Arctic Circle, is a strategic asset in our nation’s efforts to promote our interests in the north” – LINK
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement regarding the U.S Coast Guard’s recent announcement that its newest Polar Security Cutters—previously known as heavy polar icebreakers—would be homeported in Seattle, Washington.
“Our heavy icebreakers play a key role in our nation’s security and scientific research capabilities, and I’m proud to see Washington state continue our tradition of homeporting these important vessels. Our local communities and businesses are well-equipped to help maintain these critical ships and keep them ready to protect our interests in the Arctic in the decades ahead,” said Senator Murray. “I’ve been proud to fight for federal funds to replace our aging icebreakers, and will continue working to ensure Base Seattle has the resources it needs for repairs and modifications to accommodate our growing icebreaker fleet.”
The Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (PSC) program, previously known as the polar icebreaker (PIB) program, is a program to acquire three new heavy polar icebreakers, to eventually be followed by the acquisition of up to three new medium polar icebreakers. The mission of the PSC program is to conduct and support scientific research in the Arctic and Antarctica, defend U.S. sovereignty in the Arctic, defend U.S. economic interests in polar regions, monitor sea traffic in the Arctic, and conduct search and rescue and law enforcement missions. Climate change and melting polar ice only increases the need for this vital mission, and as ice in the Arctic region melts, more ship traffic is pouring into the region as commercial opportunities increase. Along with increased commercial opportunities, there is also a rise in military tensions as nations jockey for dominance in the region.
Currently, the Coast Guard icebreaking fleet consists of one heavy polar icebreaker, the Polar Star—currently homeported in Seattle—and one medium polar icebreaker, the Healy. While the 43-year-old Polar Star is operational, it is well past it’s expected service life of 30 years and there are serious concerns the ship can last much longer. To that end, in addition to working to strengthen investments in the U.S.’s heavy icebreakers, including the Polar Star, in the FY19 spending bill, as a voice for Washington state and a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee Senator Murray has long worked to secure funding to improve and maintain the nation’s icebreaker fleet, including successfully securing more than $30 million in federal funding in 2009 to re-activate the Polar Star, $57 million in 2014 to make improvements to the Polar Star, and a significant $1 billion investment for a new heavy icebreaker in 2016. Senator Murray is currently working to secure additional funding toward a second heavy icebreaker in the next cycle of federal funding.