Seattle welcomes Coast Guard icebreaker home

Plans are to increase fleet with six new polar security cutters

Coast Guard Cutter Healy crewmember Ens. Cody Williamson, left, oversees deployment of an ice profiler by John Kemp and James Dunn of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute while on an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean on Sept. 19. The crew and scientists deployed numerous scientific sensors during the ice station to gather data for Arctic research. Photo courtesy of Ens. Trevor Layman
Coast Guard Cutter Healy crewmember Ens. Cody Williamson, left, oversees deployment of an ice profiler by John Kemp and James Dunn of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute while on an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean on Sept. 19. The crew and scientists deployed numerous scientific sensors during the ice station to gather data for Arctic research. Photo courtesy of Ens. Trevor Layman

The U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy has returned to its Seattle homeport, on the heels of Arctic Ocean research in collaboration with the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Office of Naval Research.

After 129 days at sea, the Healy arrived in Seattle on Nov. 30.

Navy Times reported that the National Science Foundation research included physical oceanography and offshore ocean currents in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, to aid scientists charting biological conditions in the polar region.

The Office of Naval Research project is part of a larger, multi-year effort to detail effects of water inflow and surface force changes on ocean stratification and sea ice in the Beaufort Sea.

The National Science Foundation’s mission is designed to capture measurements form subsurface moorings on the Barrow Canyon Slop as well as data collected from the Healy’s onboard scientific equipment, Coast Guard officials said.

In addition to its research tasks, the Healy is used for search and rescue missions, escorting warships and other vessels, environmental protection and law enforcement in Arctic regions.

The 420-foot Healy, with a crew of 87, is the largest ship in the U.S. Coast Guard, and one of only two Coast Guard icebreakers.

The other, the cutter Polar Star, also is homeported in Seattle.

The Coast Guard is hoping to add six new Polar Security Cutters, the newly renamed class of icebreakers, to ensure a continued national presence and access to polar regions.

In April, the Coast Guard awarded VT Halter Marine Inc. in Pascagoula, Miss, a contract to design and construction of the Coast Guard’s lead polar security cutter, which is to be homeported in Seattle. The contract also includes options to construct two additional polar security cutters.

Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area commander, said the polar security cutters will support the full range of Coast Guard missions, from search and rescue and law environment to environmental response and national defense.