Obama to Call for More Icebreakers in Arctic as U.S. Seeks Foothold

Obama to Call for More Icebreakers in Arctic as U.S. Seeks FootholdANCHORAGE — President Obama on Tuesday will propose speeding the acquisition and building of new Coast Guard icebreakers that can operate year-round in the nation’s polar regions, part of an effort to close the gap between the United States and other nations, especially Russia, in a global competition to gain a foothold in the rapidly changing Arctic.

On the second day of a three-day trip to Alaska to highlight the challenge of climate change and call for a worldwide effort to address its root causes, Mr. Obama’s proposals will touch on one of its most profound effects. The retreat of Arctic sea ice has created opportunities for shipping, tourism, mineral exploration and fishing — and with it, a rush of marine traffic that is bringing new difficulties.

“Arctic ecosystems are among the most pristine and understudied in the world, meaning increased commercial activity comes with significant risks to the environment,” the White House said in a fact sheet issued in advance of an announcement by Mr. Obama in Seward, where he planned to hike to Exit Glacier on Tuesday and tour Kenai Fjords National Park by boat.

“The growth of human activity in the Arctic region will require highly engaged stewardship to maintain the open seas necessary for global commerce and scientific research, allow for search and rescue activities, and provide for regional peace and stability,” the statement said.

The aging Coast Guard fleet is not keeping pace with the challenge, the administration acknowledged, noting that the service has the equivalent of just two “fully functional” heavy icebreakers at its disposal, down from seven during World War II. Russia, by contrast, has 41 of the vessels, with plans for 11 more. China unveiled a refurbished icebreaker in 2012 and is building another.

Mr. Obama will propose speeding up the acquisition of a replacement icebreaker that had been planned for 2022, setting a new date of 2020, the White House said. He will also propose that planning begin on the construction of new ones, asking Congress to provide “sufficient resources” to fund them.

In addition, Mr. Obama will announce an initiative by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard to map and chart the newly open Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. The agency will also install new equipment in the Arctic in the “near future” to monitor climate-change effects and enhance marine safety, including stations to monitor sea-level rise and “a sea-ice thickness satellite product,” the White House said.

Some lawmakers, analysts and even government officials say the United States is lagging other nations in preparing for the new environmental, economic and geopolitical realities in the Arctic.

Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska, who traveled to Anchorage with Mr. Obama on Air Force One on Monday, said he was concerned that the United States military was drawing down in Alaska just as Russia was flexing its muscles.

“It’s the biggest buildup of the Russian military since the Cold War,” Mr. Walker said, noting Alaska’s proximity to Russia. “They’re reopening 10 bases and building four more, and they’re all in the Arctic, so here we are in the middle of the pond, feeling a little bit uncomfortable.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama plans to trek through the Alaskan wilderness in an effort to call attention to the urgency of addressing climate change, and to build public support for doing so. At a conference sponsored by the State Department on Monday, he issued a call to action on the issue, exhorting foreign leaders at the gathering to get out and see a glacier to remind themselves of the need to preserve such places for future generations.

“I’ll be sharing my experiences with you along the way, because I want to make sure you see what I’m seeing,” the president wrote about his travels on Monday in a post on Medium, the blogging platform. “And when you do, I want you to think about the fact that this is the only planet that we’ve got — and we’ve got to do everything we can to protect it.”

At the Kenai Fjords park on Tuesday, the president will also announce that he is sending Congress draft legislation to upgrade and promote access to national park facilities in time for the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

The bill would support the administration’s efforts “to ensure that our parks and historic sites fully represent our nation’s ethnically and culturally diverse communities, and that all Americans, regardless of their background or where they live, are able to access and enjoy these remarkable places,” the White House said.

Hallelujah and amen!

now, if they would only scrap the ridiculous LCS program to pay for these?

[QUOTE=c.captain;168076]Hallelujah and amen!

now, if they would only scrap the ridiculous LCS program to pay for these?[/QUOTE]

Stop giving away money to foreign countries and get both - LCS & Icebreakers - keep the ship building strong.

this story even made it to NPR this afternoon

[B]Obama Asks Congress To Fund New Coast Guard Icebreakers[/B]

Jim Zarroli September 01, 2015 4:29 PM ET

Listen to the Story

President Obama is in Alaska calling for Congress to fund the construction of new Coast Guard icebreakers. The president said the Arctic is growing in importance, and the Coast Guard’s icebreakers aren’t keeping pace with the challenge. The Coast Guard has two heavy icebreakers, down from seven during World War II.

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[QUOTE=anchorman;168092]Stop giving away money to foreign countries and get both - LCS & Icebreakers - keep the ship building strong.[/QUOTE]

I am 200% behind ending the huge giveaways the US hands out to Israel, Egypt and Pakistan but the LCSs are utterly worthless warships and at almost $400M each are hideously expensive. Do you think 5 LCSs are more valuable than two new A5 icebreakers to the USA?

Funny. The CG has been asking for a new icebreaker for over 5 years now citing all the same reasons, yet Washington couldnt care less.

Now Obama says it and its like the greatest idea ever…

Funny how that works huh?

Funny how in the US it takes ten years (or more!) to build an icebreaker, but in the rest of the world it’s possible to design and build a cutting-edge icebreaker in less than three years at a fraction of the cost.

Yea the Aiviq is more advanced than anything the CG would ever build and it only took a couple years.

defense contractor people need to make profits that they can recycle back into campaign contributions. Pretty simple cycle.

[QUOTE=commtuna;168123]Yea the Aiviq is more advanced than anything the CG would ever build and it only took a couple years.[/QUOTE]

Aiviq is not an advanced icebreaker. The US coast Guard already built a more advanced icebreaker in the 90s (USCGC Healy) and another in the 2000s (USCGC Mackinaw).

[QUOTE=Tups;168122]Funny how in the US it takes ten years (or more!) to build an icebreaker, but in the rest of the world it’s possible to design and build a cutting-edge icebreaker in less than three years at a fraction of the cost.[/QUOTE]

they could maybe just buy/order on from Russia or Finland. Would be the fastest (though probably not most realistic) option. Re. the cost: let some of the oil companies who are eager on Arctic offshore drilling help pay the bill.

I think ordering an icebreaker from a shipyard in Russia or a Russian-owned shipyard in Finland (Arctech) is out of the question. However, the Canadians are ramping up their shipbuilding industry with the National Shipbuilding Program and already possess plans for a modern polar icebreaker. Perhaps there could be a possibility to speed up the process if USA and Canada worked together, and in the end both countries could get their icebreakers around 2020 or so, and at lower cost than initially anticipated.

[QUOTE=Tups;168128]I think ordering an icebreaker from a shipyard in Russia or a Russian-owned shipyard in Finland (Arctech) is out of the question. However, the Canadians are ramping up their shipbuilding industry with the National Shipbuilding Program and already possess plans for a modern polar icebreaker. Perhaps there could be a possibility to speed up the process if USA and Canada worked together, and in the end both countries could get their icebreakers around 2020 or so, and at lower cost than initially anticipated.[/QUOTE]

I am down with this but tell me, do the Canadians have a ability to design truly the best modern icebreakers anymore? What makes the CCGS JOHN G. DIEFENBAKER the best design possible? To me, it looks a lot like the USCG HEALY. I certainly believe that the Fins can so maybe we need to look at the best designs from there as a starting point. What would you say is the best conventionally powered icebreaker in the world today?

Correct the Aiviq isnt an icebreaker exactly, but its a beast that didnt take 10 years to build. That was my point.

And the Healy and Mackinaw are in no way “Advanced” icebreakers either, compared to whats in Europe. The Healy doenst have the ice capability that the Polar Sea/Star does, and the Mackinaw was designed for the Lakes. It couldnt handle the Arctic.

The CGC Mackinaw started fabrication on April 14, 2004 and was commissioned on June 10, 2006. Certainly didn’t take 10 years to build. Not even close to 10 years. Of course it will probably take congress 8 years to get their act together so maybe 10 years is a good time frame. I also take exception to the article’s statement that the CG only has 3 CREAKY ice breakers. I wouldn’t consider the Mackinaw(2006) or Healy(1999) creaky. Yes the Polar Star has been around since 1977 and would fit into that class.

I still say the CG should sell the drugs they capture and would probably be a profit making organization.

Just putting this out there- why not build the same design as the Polar Sea/Star but with improved engineering? Aside from engine issues, the design worked well for 30+ years. I bet we could build a new and improved design much faster and know what we are getting.

Just parked the polar star this morning she just got out of mare island shipyard and is looking in great shape!

[QUOTE=salt’n steel;168135]Just putting this out there- why not build the same design as the Polar Sea/Star but with improved engineering? Aside from engine issues, the design worked well for 30+ years. I bet we could build a new and improved design much faster and know what we are getting.[/QUOTE]

that makes entirely too much sense…this is the federal goobermint we’re talking about here!

of course, they could just gut the powerplant in the POLAR SEA and rebuild her as diesel electric with all new non CP props or better still use azipods! Those KaMeWa props have been the biggest single point of failure with those two ships for 40 years now.

[QUOTE=c.captain;168131]I am down with this but tell me, do the Canadians have a ability to design truly the best modern icebreakers anymore? What makes the CCGS JOHN G. DIEFENBAKER the best design possible? To me, it looks a lot like the USCG HEALY. I certainly believe that the Fins can so maybe we need to look at the best designs from there as a starting point. What would you say is the best conventionally powered icebreaker in the world today?[/QUOTE]

CCGS John G. Diefenbaker was designed by STX Canada Marine, which at that time was owned by the same company that held the majority of shares in a certain Finnish engineering company:

For the past year Aker Arctic has been designing the new polar icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard as part of a team led by STX Canada Marine, which was awarded the design contract in October 2011.

Aker Arctic has taken a lead role in major ice related design issues such as the hull form development, hull strength, the power prediction to meet the icebreaking capability, winterization aspects (how the ship functions in low temperatures) and shafting design including propellers amongst others. (Arctic Passion News 2013, page 9)

In my opinion, when it comes to hull form and propulsion arrangement, the Diefenbreaker is the best “off the shelf” design available today. Of course there is always room for some improvement and personally I would change the propulsion system from “shaftline-Azipod-shaftline” to “Azipod-shaftline-Azipod” to improve overall operational capability. Of course, the USCG would probably want some changes to the internal arrangement of the vessel, but those are minor things when the hull form has already been developed and tested in an ice model basin. In terms of icebreaking performance, CCGS John G. Diefenbaker will be second only to the Arktika-class nuclear-powered icebreakers with the ability to break 2.5-metre ice with a 30 cm snow cover at 3 knots. Yet, it’s still usable in open water and an icebreaker based on the same design could sail from Seattle to McMurdo in Antarctica without much difficulties.

As for my personal favourite, I’m not sure. Of the icebreakers I have been on, I’d probably pick Baltika, which could by the way be an excellent basis for a new Great Lakes icebreaker because it could fit in the locks and still break a wide channel for big lakers…

[QUOTE=commtuna;168132]And the Healy and Mackinaw are in no way “Advanced” icebreakers either, compared to whats in Europe. The Healy doenst have the ice capability that the Polar Sea/Star does, and the Mackinaw was designed for the Lakes. It couldnt handle the Arctic.[/QUOTE]

While the Healy may be of conventional design, it still has a diesel-electric AC/AC power plant and propulsion system like other modern icebreakers. The Mackinaw, on the other hand, is the only icebreaker in the Western hemisphere to feature Azipod propulsion units. Both features put them lightyears ahead of the Aiviq when it comes to technology. Of course, the design criteria for all these vessels have been different, so it’s obvious that you can’t compare them in terms of absolute performance.

[QUOTE=salt’n steel;168135]Just putting this out there- why not build the same design as the Polar Sea/Star but with improved engineering? Aside from engine issues, the design worked well for 30+ years. I bet we could build a new and improved design much faster and know what we are getting.[/QUOTE]

The Finns developed and model-tested a competely new icebreaker design within just a few months and have now published an updated Arctic version that the Russians will start building this year, so it does not take years to hone an icebreaker’s hull form. Also, as I said above, your northern neighbour already has a superior hull form that could be used as the basis of the new USCG icebreaker.

In addition, it has been about 40 years since the Polar class was built and the shipyard that built them no longer exists. Even if you wanted to re-use the old plans, you would have to adapt the 70s design to modern shipbuilding practices and manufacturing processes. Furthermore, the new ships would have to fulfill a bunch of rules and regulations that were not in force when the old icebreakers were built. In the end, there isn’t much but the lines plan that you could utilize…

[QUOTE=c.captain;168137]of course, they could just gut the powerplant in the POLAR SEA and rebuild her as diesel electric with all new non CP props or better still use azipods![/QUOTE]

Azipods are out of the question due to hull form, but re-engining the old icebreaker could be feasible. However, I have not seen the GA so I don’t know if it would be possible to fit, say, three 10 MW electric motors and a bunch of modern gensets in the engine room. After all, you can’t change the existing arrangement too much, or it would be cheaper just to build a new ship.

How many excellent ship designs that just needed updated modern engineering have we shelved to be completely disappointed in the replacement design? Just like autos, I’d drive a Aston Martin DB 5 with coil-over springs and a modern BMW engine tomorrow if someone made one.