USCG Ice breakers


USCGC Polar Star made it again, but sooner or later their luck will run out…


$1billion for an icebreaker…it’s a ship, not a spaceship. I think the Russians built a nuclear icebreaker for less than half of that.


The nuclear-powered ones cost about a billion each. It’s not clear as they are severely behind schedule and the exchange rate has changed a lot in the past few years.

Anyway, RFP for the USCG HPIB is expected later this month:


The RFP for heavy icebreakers for the USCG has been published:


From todays LL:

Cold comfort
07 Mar 2018
Michael Grey
Moves to find a replacement for the sole surviving US Coast Guard heavy icebreaker have been at a glacial pace
USCG icebreaker Polar Star
ALERT readers might have seen of the successful return from the Antarctic of the US Coast Guard’s heavy polar icebreaker Polar Star, following a supply mission to the US stations in the Ross Sea.

It was probably the occasion for some relief at the USCG headquarters, bearing in mind the age of this vessel and the importance of this annual mission. There was, it transpired, only one engine breakdown of note, although not sufficiently serious to affect the cruise to the deep south on Operation Deep Freeze 2018.

While this elderly ship was on its way home to northern latitudes, the US Department of Homeland Security was hopefully securing some $750m for a replacement of the Coast Guard’s old lady, which was first commissioned in 1976.

It is hoped that contracts can be awarded that will see the replacement vessel up and running in 2023, which seems a long way off, bearing in mind that Polar Star’s advanced age, and the fact that it is only kept in operation by cannibalising its sister, which was in fact two years younger. One doesn’t like to ask, but there probably isn’t that much left.

The replacement cannot come soon enough for the USCG, which must be grinding its collective teeth in envy as they read of the steady growth and replacement programme of the Russian icebreaker fleet.

The Russians are building heavy icebreakers at a rate of more than one per year, as part of the country’s determination to facilitate growth on the Northern Sea Route, and to make more of the wealth of that country’s northern regions. They are building nuclear and conventional craft, employing a great deal of the international technology that is being developed for work in very low temperatures. They are also building up their already formidable experience.

The Russian government is also encouraging co-operative ventures with other mainstream ship operators who are interesting in exploiting the northern “short cut” between Europe and Asia. The recent agreement between Mitsui OSK and the Russian government, designed to promote greater use of the NSR, is a case in point.

The moves to find a replacement for the sole surviving USCG heavy icebreaker have been at a glacial pace, handicapped by all the other missions which are placed firmly on the Coast Guard’s gigantic plate.

There have been endless warnings about the growth of Russian influence in the frozen north, while icebreaker construction programmes announced by the near neighbours of the US in Ottawa have been calculated to set alarm bells ringing. The Chinese, even the Indians, have announced their intention to build greater capacity for operations in the high latitudes. The US, it appears is being left rather far behind in terms of ships with genuine polar capabilities.

Will the order for this replacement vessel see steel cut any time soon? In terms of procurement, it might be argued that the Department of Homeland Security may have rather more clout than the USCG ever did.

But historians might recall that the Polar Star and its sister were first conceived in the 1960s and that the original programme was for a “first of class” and three other ships. At that time the Soviet Union were surprising their cold war foes by the construction of a series of nuclear icebreakers, so the need for high latitude capabilities in the US seemed unarguable. But somehow, as other priorities, like those around the Vietnam war, raised their heads, the Coast Guard requirement was expediently cut back to just the two powerful craft, which took from 1971 to 1978 to get into commission.

The trouble with any long term naval or Coast Guard procurement programmes is that because of their long-term gestation, any number of “events” can throw them off-course, with changing budgetary demands most likely as the years pass.

It is also arguable that building just one of an essential class of ship is nonsensical, as ships have to be periodically taken out of service for repair and maintenance. And for a type of ship that is designed to routinely go into waters and situations where normal mariners fear to tread, this is surely an additional risk if you only have a single ship.

But perhaps there are people holding the purse-strings who believe that such is the speed of polar melting, whether through “climate change” or “global warming” that given a few more years ships with ice-breaking capabilities will be old hat.

But there is also a further important issue here beyond the need for polar patrol ships in that the experience of people accustomed to operating ships in these hazardous waters is every bit as vital as providing the ships themselves. Ice navigators with this essential experience are in short supply and if the Coast Guard is to maintain its expertise in these demanding latitudes, it needs to have ships upon which their navigators may hone their skills.

The Nautical Institute, whose current President Captain Duke Snyder is a professional ice navigator, is taking the issue of safety in ice operations very seriously with its Ice Navigator Training and Accreditation programme, designed to provide verification of professional expertise in this area.

His most recent message members in the NI Seaways magazine actually came from the bridge of the USCG Polar Star on its Operation Deep Freeze voyage. Captain Snyder, whose expertise was probably very welcome, is in no doubt that the demand for the specialist skills of these professionals will increase exponentially, as operations in high latitudes become more common.


Argentine icebreaker rescues U.S. scientists in Antarctica


Latest news re: RV Kronprins Haakon:


Turns out the CCG doesn’t want Aiviq either:

Nothing to help the climate, the bulk of the four icebreakers proposed by the yard, the Aiviq, is removed from the negotiations which could greatly reduce the expected benefits. However, it is the modification of this icebreaker that requires more work and that would create the most jobs. The Aiviq conversion could last up to two years and employ up to 400 people.


Don’t play chicken with a nuclear icebreaker:


The RV Kronprins Haakon has finally been delivered:

But, as reported earlier, there are still disputes to be sorted out .


Further info:

Don’t know about this statement;


The formal transfer of ownership from the yard Fincantieri to the Norwegian Polar Institute?

When arriving in Norway the ship was not entirely ready, and there was still the 25 million Euro dispute to settle. The owner was still Fincantieri.

And it was probably on MARCH 23, 2018…


Delivered 27.March according to this article in Sysla:


I think it’s about time for Norway to get a proper polar research vessel. I did a cruise on Lance and few of my friends went on KV Svalbard. Both were okay-ish platforms but the former could not proceed too far into the ice pack and the latter was, in the end, a coast guard vessel.

So congratulations!


R/V Kronprins Haakon is now in her home port Tromso:

Preparing for her first trip to Svalbard. According to my sources she is due to carry out ice testing in an area north of the Svalbard archipelago.

PS> Found this article from the local Tromso newspaper:

With some external pix:

BTW; Seal meat is now for sale directly from the seal catcher Kvitungen at the wharf in Tromso. She is one of two vessels that have been catching seals in the western ice for 1.5 months. Her haule was 2700 tonnes.:


She is heading to Svalbard for the ice test now.


In order to avoid this thread from becoming an one-sided red-blue-white bragging contest, here’s the latest Russian icebreaker arriving in St. Petersburg:


RV Kronprins Haakon is back at Langstein Yard after successful completion of ice test:


It is confirmed; Canada is going for the three Viking Icebreaking AHTS and conversion at Davie:


Here is the vessels.

I have the contacts if USA wants 50 newish vessels for a similar project.

If this is reality and Canada has actually bought 3 old psv’s to convert into icebreakers it’s about on the top of the stupid shit list. But North America is in a different reality then the rest of us, so who knows?