U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker base remains the same

U.S. Coast Guard officials have made their decision for the new polar security icebreaking cutters to remain based in Seattle.

“The Pacific Northwest has been the home of our icebreaking fleet since 1976, and I am confident that the Seattle area will continue to provide the support we need to carry out our critical operations in the polar regions,” said Adm. Karl L. Schultz, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, in an announcement reported in the U.S. Naval Institute News on June 17.

The first of a planned fleet of three new heavy icebreakers, called Polar Security Cutters, is anticipated for delivery in 2023. The Coast Guard’s only working heavy icebreaker, Polar Star, is based in Seattle. The Coast Guard also has one medium icebreaker.

The new icebreaker is to be constructed in the Pascagoula, Miss., shipyard owned by VT Halter Marine, which was awarded a $745 million detailed design and construction contract in April by the Coast Guard. Halter Marine also has options to build two more polar security cutters. Should the firm exercise both options, the contract value increases to $1.9 billion for the three icebreakers, the Coast Guard said.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said word that the Coast Guard continues to select Seattle as homeport for icebreakers “shows the significant role Washington state has to play in securing our waters and protecting our environment in the Arctic. 

“The Puget Sound region supports a cutting-edge maritime workforce, which is poised to meet the needs of these new world-class vessels, she said. The Washington state Democrat has been a leading voice in expansion of the U.S. icebreaker fleet. In 2006, Cantwell secured legislation that required the Coast Guard to develop a long-term plan for maintaining and upgrading the icebreaker fleet. And in 2016, she persuaded the Obama administration to include new icebreaker funds in its fiscal year 2017 budget request. This year, Cantwell also helped secure $655 million for design and construction of the first Coat Guard polar icebreaker in over four decades as well as $20 million to start planning for a second icebreaker.